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.
Experts on today’s news…
Margaret Kerr on: The stress of pandemic parenting
Margaret Kerr, an expert on parents' emotions and experiences in parenthood, can discuss the challenges many parents are facing during the pandemic, with many summer camps closed and social distancing rules in place in areas across the country.
Kerr can comment on:
- Parental burnout
- Gender differences in parenting during the pandemic
- Particular burden placed lower income families with less resources
Kerr says, "“The burden placed on parents, especially mothers, during the pandemic is unacceptable and unsustainable. We are seeing higher levels of stress, anxiety, and burnout in parents as they attempt to navigate multiple roles simultaneously – employees, parents, teachers, and playmates. This is a universal problem and the responsibility should be placed on policy makers, not parents, to fix.”
Ajay Sethi on: What we know about masks
Ajay Sethi, associate professor in the School of Medicine and Public Health and an expert on infectious disease epidemiology, says there's good science behind the call to wear masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Sethi says, "COVID-19 transmission is getting out of control. Mask use and keeping physical distance are the only ways out of this mess."
Laura Albert on: The return of MLB
Major League Baseball has announced a 2020 season which calls for players to report for training on July 1. Laura Albert, an expert on modeling and analysis of complex systems like healthcare, airline safety and emergency services, says the return could be dangerous or successful depending how the process of resuming is managed. Albert can discuss the risk-management and contingency planning needed for sports to stage a safe comeback.
Albert says, "There will absolutely be players and staff who test positive for COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean baseball shouldn’t return. The question is, can the system absorb a few positive cases and prevent transmission of the virus to other players and staff without affecting league play in a major may."
Shane Hubbard on: Disaster response during COVID-19
Hubbard, a research scientist at the UW-Madison Space Science and Engineering Center who uses geospatial tools to model hazardous events like floods, tornadoes and hurricanes, can comment on how the pandemic has created a shortage of disaster-response supplies and personnel, as well as how vulnerable populations may be at a disproportionate risk if a disaster strikes. Disaster response typically involves federal, state and local communities and agencies working together. Says Hubbard: “COVID-19 has created a unique set of new problems for disaster response in the future." He recently offered his expertise to SciLine, a service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that helps connect journalists with scientific experts.
Walter Stern on: Statues
Walter Stern, an expert on race and education, can discuss the movement to take down confederate statues and symbols. Stern, a New Orleans native, recently did an interview about John McDonogh, a wealthy New Orleans slave owner who left money to the city to build public schools.
"When we embrace a simplified and inaccurate picture of, ‘This is somebody who left money and did a good thing, therefore we can celebrate them,’ it kind of gives a pass on confronting all the systems of oppression that McDonogh was tied up in,” Stern said. “It allows us to sort of sidestep not just acknowledging that past but then figuring out how we act to redress past wrongs and inequalities in schooling and beyond schooling.”
Nasia Safdar on: Local and national spikes in COVID-19 infections
Nasia Safar, medical director of infection control and prevention at UW Health, is available to discuss recent spikes in COVID-19 new infection rates nationally and locally, in Wisconsin.
Dr. Safdar says, "We are seeing an increase in cases in Dane County. It is not good news. So far, fortunately, we are not seeing an increase in hospitalizations which is good. We can help by adhering to physical distancing, masking, and in general reducing our foot traffic by avoiding non-essential types of activities and gatherings, hard though it may be. Those are the measures that helped before and can help again."
David Andes on: COVID-19-related clinical trials
David Andes, a professor of medicine in the infectious disease division of SMPH, is available to discuss his work on a study conducted in partnership with the pharmaceutical company Novartis examining the potential for an existing drug called ruxolitinib to treat a serious and often deadly complication of a COVID-19 infection called cytokine storm.
Elizabeth Nugent, director of clinical trials development and accreditation/chief clinical research officer at SMPH, is available to discuss the ruxolitinib study, and the full roster of COVID-19-related studies currently underway at SMPH, including investigations into "Covid toes" and convalescent plasma. Read more about clinical trials here.
Nancy Wong on: Changes in the retail industry
The pandemic has changed the retail landscape almost overnight. Nancy Wong is the Kohl’s Chair in Retail Innovation in the School of Human Ecology. She is a consumer psychologist who explores how cultural values influence consumption decisions, how people respond emotionally in different situations, and how materialistic values influence the way we consume.
Alvin Thomas on: Mental health challenges for Black men due to COVID-19 and police killings
Alvin Thomas is an assistant professor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department in the School of Human Ecology, and director of the Ethnic Youth Risk and Resilience Lab at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He says there's a coming mental health crisis for Black men and boys in the U.S. because they are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and police violence. Thomas says we need to prepare to meet this coming crisis with a mix of policy solutions and mental health care delivered with humanity and compassion.
Thomas says, "America’s COVID-19 recovery must directly address racism and the enduring racial inequities that undermine life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for many Americans."
Jirs Meuris on: Police funding and management
Jirs Meuris has researched how work practices within police departments influence its outcomes. His research has looked at the effect of overtime and moonlighting policies on arrest rates and the effect of increasing racial diversity among police officers on racial disparities in cite-and-release decisions.
"Current problems in law enforcement are in part a failure of management," Meuris says. "It is clear that the way departments choose to manage their workforce has direct implications for its outcomes. As part of the movement to reform police departments, we need to consider the organizational levers including selection, training, compensation, and diversity that can facilitate improvements in the way officers interact with the community.