These experts from the UW-Madison faculty and staff have agreed to comment on breaking news, ongoing developments and trends in their areas of expertise. If you need help arranging interviews, email University Communications.
Beyond the pandemic
Numerous experts from the University of Wisconsin–Madison are available to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and provide tips and information to help people navigate related changes to their daily lives.
Ajay Sethi on: Herd immunity
With more people getting vaccinated against COVID-19 by the day in the U.S., but vaccine rates beginning to slow, experts say it may be difficult for the U.S. to achieve herd immunity. However, Sethi, an expert in epidemiology and population health, says we may want to think about herd immunity at a smaller scale. "Certainly a household, a dormitory, or group living facility in which everyone is over 16 years of age can have herd immunity, if nearly everyone is vaccinated," Sethi says. "At a movie theater or concert, a workplace, or sporting event – herd immunity can be attained if most everyone in those environments is vaccinated."
However, he notes: "Herd immunity for an entire city, zip code, or just a neighborhood will not be achieved until children under 16 are able to be vaccinated, but we can still reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities by taking proper precautions."
For a video of Sethi discussing herd immunity, visit: https://news.wisc.edu/badger-talks-video-is-herd-immunity-attainable/
James Conway on: Kids and vaccines
As Pfizer applies for emergency approval for use in younger children, the question of when children will receive vaccines is still being answered. Dr. Jim Conway, professor of pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and an infectious diseases and vaccine expert at UW Health, is available for interviews on the subject.
“When the time is right, it will be vital to vaccinate children if we hope to provide broad immunity for Americans against this dangerous virus,” Conway said. “However, children are not small adults and we must make sure these vaccines are safe for them.”
Bianca Baldridge on: The role of community-based afterschool programs
Bianca Baldridge, an expert on afterschool education and assistant professor in the department of educational policy studies, says the pandemic brought an overlooked loss to school-age children in the halt of community-based afterschool programs. Baldridge says these programs provided meaningful connections to adults, opportunities to imagine, create, organize, and quiet spaces to work.
Denia Garcia on: Racial inequalities of pandemic impact and recovery
Denia Garcia, an expert on the ways in which inequalities are experienced and reproduced, can discuss how the pandemic has impacted certain communities harder than others.
"COVID-19 has exacerbated racial inequalities across health, social, and economic outcomes," Garcia says. "After the pandemic, Black and Latino communities will experience a slow recovery that will have long-lasting consequences."
Sarah Halpern-Meekin on: Learning in a pandemic
Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, and of Public Affairs, uses qualitative and quantitative methods to study romantic relationships and low-income families’ finances, as well as government policies directed at these areas. Her research includes examining how social poverty shapes people’s well-being and decisions.
"During the pandemic, children's learning and connections to supportive adults and institutions outside their homes were disrupted, though not equally across all children," Halpern-Meekin says. "Unless we take steps to address the consequences of these disruptions, they may exacerbate preexisting disparities among children along socioeconomic, English-language-learner, and racial/ethnic lines."
Thomas Friedrich on: Burnout among scientists, viral sequencing framework, improving the regulatory environment
Thomas Friedrich is a professor of pathobiological sciences and an expert on pandemic viruses. He is available to provide analysis on:
- Viral sequencing and its application for other emerging pathogens. How to build a sustainable framework, now and for the next pandemic.
- Moving toward a simpler, more nimble regulatory environment to support research and diagnostics while still promoting safety and privacy
- High burnout rate among scientists, physicians and public officials whose pace of work accelerated. How to help them recover?
- Career development of junior scientists, many had to put their work on hold during the pandemic.How will this impact the scientific enterprise?
Experts on today’s news
Tova Walsh on: New motherhood during the pandemic
Tova Walsh can offer multiple perspectives as a researcher who has interviewed dozens of mothers who gave birth early in the pandemic and a mother who gave birth in March 2020. She recently appeared on the Slate podcast Mom and Dad Are Fighting. Walsh is an assistant professor of social work.
Christine Whelan on: U.S. birthrate continues downward trend
The U.S. birthrate has decline again for the sixth year in a row, according to the federal government. The trend may be associated with the pandemic. Christine Whelan, a clinical professor in the School of Human Ecology, is available for analysis.
Whelan says, "The decision to have a child is a sign of hope for the future — and with economic uncertainty and a global pandemic, this has not been a time of optimism. While my grandmother always used to say that every baby comes with its own loaf of bread, modern couples aren’t taken chances right now, and these seemingly individual decisions will have collective implications for decades to come."
Don Stanley on: Facebook ban on Trump upheld
Don Stanley, an expert on the use and influence of social media, can comment on the decision by Facebook's oversight board Wednesday to uphold the company's suspension of former U.S. President Donald Trump. The board found that it was wrong to make the suspension indefinite and gave it six months to determine a "proportionate response."
Timothy Smeeding on: American Families Plan
Timothy Smeeding, an expert on poverty and professor of public affairs and economics, is available to discuss the proposed American Families Plan, which includes financing for education including free community college for all, a federal paid leave program, and more affordable childcare, all paid for by higher taxes on the wealthy.
"The American Families Plan is the foundation for revolutionizing federal social policy in support of disadvantaged children and young adults," Smeeding says. "In addition to federal support for preschool and community colleges, the centerpiece of the plan is to extend the landmark monthly refundable child care tax credit beyond 2021 and ensure that its monthly delivery helps halve child poverty and lead to a brighter future for all children."
Laura Albert on: Travel and COVD-19
Fully-vaccinated Americans will be allowed to travel to Europe this summer. Laura Albert is a systems engineer and an expert on risk and travel. She's available for interviews about how to assess risk when it comes to travel and planning for summer getaways.
Barry Burden on: U.S. Census 2020
Barry Burden, an expert on American politics and elections, can discuss the political impact of the 2020 U.S. Census.
"The 2020 Census numbers kick off the process of reshuffling districts and are the raw material affecting who controls Congress and state legislatures after the next midterm election," Burden says.
Morgan Edwards on: Climate crisis and Earth Day
Morgan Edwards is an assistant professor and expert on state and national responses to the climate crisis at the LaFollette School of Public Affairs. She’s available to field media inquiries related to Earth Day and other climate-related inquiries.
Edwards says, "We need all hands on deck to tackle the climate crisis. Cities and states have a long history of leading on climate change. They can find solutions that work in their communities and have multiple benefits—for example, reducing local air pollution or investing in new industries. Research shows we can reduce emissions of climate warming greenhouse gases fastest when we have action at all levels of government."