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…
Pamela Oliver on: National protests about the death of George Floyd
Pamela Oliver, an expert on social movements and racial disparities in criminal justice, is available to talk about the spread of protests in response to the death of George Floyd. Oliver can discuss:
- How current protests relate to the Black Lives Matter movement
- The possible involvement of white supremacist elements
- The debate about peaceful vs. "violent" protests
- Why spontaneous protests are more likely to become violent than planned protests
Anuj Desai on: President Trump's executive order on social media companies
Anuj Desai is a professor of law with particular expertise in free speech and communication as it relates to IT law. He can discuss President Trump's recent executive order intended to weaken the power of social media companies like Twitter and Facebook.
Ralph Grunewald on: Race and criminal justice
The deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery have once again sparked conversations about race and the criminal justice system. Ralph Grunewald, an assistant professor at the Center for Law, Society, and Justice, can discuss.
Grunewald teaches classes on American criminal justice, juvenile justice, comparative criminal justice, and law and literature.
Matthew Hora on: The impact of lost summer internships
Matthew Hora, an expert on internships and college to workforce transitions, is available to discuss the impact of internships lost due to the pandemic.
Hora says, "The loss of in-person internships due to the COVID-19 pandemic will likely hurt the career development and future prospects of thousands of college students, but online internships (and possibly short-term projects called “micro-internships”) may help ameliorate these negative impacts, though little research has been conducted on online, remote, or micro-internships."
Hora can disucss:
- Why research suggests the large numbers of cancellations during the COVID-19 pandemic will have negative consequences for those unable to take an internship
- Why online internships that may become available may have the added benefit of increasing access
- Why online internships could struggle to provide experiences like the opportunity to learn about professional cultures, behavioral norms of a workplace, and the building of professional networks to students
Laura Albert on: Sports and coronavirus
Major League Baseball's owners and players are negotiating a possible return to the diamond. Laura Albert, an expert on modeling and analysis of complex systems like healthcare, airline safety and emergency services, thinks the low-contact, outdoor game might be a good candidate for renewed competition. However, she says, the off-the-field logistics of travel and lockerooms still present important risks to players and other staff required to play nine innings — whether fans fill the stands or not. Albert can discuss the risk-management and contingency planning needed for sports to stage a comeback.
Richard Monette on: South Dakota tribal checkpoints
Richard Monette, law professor and director of the Great Lakes Indian Law Center, is available to discuss the dispute over South Dakota roadside checkpoints that members of two Native American tribes say they have put into place to curb the spread of coronavirus into tribal land.
Christopher Zahasky on: Underground CO2 storage
A new study led by University of Wisconsin–Madison geoscience professor Christopher Zahasky shows that underground reservoirs currently have capacity to store enough atmospheric carbon dioxide to limit planetary warming to under two degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit) relative to pre-Industrial temperatures by the year 2100. Zahasky can disuss underground CO2 storage as one of several strategies identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to show promise for mitigating the effects of climate change.
Ryan Poe-Gavlinski on: Domestic violence during isolation
Ryan Poe-Gavlinski, an expert on domestic violence and legal services for victims of crimes, can talk about the rise of domestic violence during coronavirus quarantine.
Poe-Gavlinski can discuss:
- What victims/survivors are going through during this pandemic
- Possible aftermath of the pandemic and the effect it could have on victims/survivors going forward
- Issues our children/youth are facing during this pandemic
- Lack of resources
- Current trends facing our victims/survivors
Poe-Gavlinski says, "This is a very difficult time for our victims of domestic abuse, including minors and children. During a time that is labeled “Safe At Home,” there are many who are not safe in their homes. Signs of abuse are not readily seen by others because we as a society are to not having contact with others. Victims do not want to seek medical attention for obvious reasons. Access to services is hard given the limitations that advocates and those assisting victims currently face. We have seen lower numbers of those seeking services which is cause for concern during this time. I expect to see a significant increase in need once our restrictions of quarantine are lifted."
Jerry O'Brien on: Retail struggling
U.S. retail sales plunged by more than 16 percent in April, according to newly released figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. Jerry O’Brien, Executive Director of the Kohl’s Center for Retailing in the School of Human Ecology, says of recent trends, “I don’t see why this number would be a surprise with so many physical stores, shopping centers, and malls closed. The thing to watch for in the long run is how are consumers making decisions on what to shop for. In the end, we will still consume and shop, but many are taking a pause to reconsider what and how they consume.”
Marianne Smukowski on: Challenges facing dairy manufacturers
Marianne Smukowski, outreach program manager for the Center of Dairy Research (CDR), is well versed in assisting dairy manufacturing facilities with food safety plans, performing third party audits for dairy plants, and serving as a regulatory liaison for dairy manufacturers. Currently, dairy plants are struggling with manufacturing and distribution of their products, employee wellbeing, and financial loss. Smukowski is available to discuss and answer the kinds of questions she would address with dairy plant owners/managers:
- What is the best way to control and maintain social distancing in the plant?
- What is the proper use of face masks?
- Should on-site temperature checks be performed?
- What happens when an employee—or a family member of an employee—tests positive for coronavirus?
- How do dairy plant supervisors communicate with workers when information is very fluid and employees are already saturated with information?
The CDR has assembled a set of resources to assist Wisconsin dairy manufacturers on the CDR website at https://www.cdr.wisc.edu/about/coronavirus.
Contact: email@example.com, (608) 265-6346
John Lucey on: Dairy industry challenges
John Lucey, UW–Madison professor of food science and director of the Center for Dairy Research (CDR), has expertise in dairy manufacturing, dairy food products, and the cheese industry. He can talk about the unprecedented challenges facing the dairy industry due to COVID-19. The pandemic has caused much of the foodservice industry to close, which isn’t good news for the dairy industry—since about 40% of all cheese goes into foodservice. Many dairy processors are trying to find new areas to sell their products.
CDR is working with the dairy industry to help companies adapt to this challenging situation. Among other work, CDR has been sharing research on how dairy processors can extend the shelf-life of cheese, including via a webinar attended by over 500 participants. Extended shelf-life helps give plants more time to find new customers or export their cheese. Since the start of this crisis, CDR has worked with over 50 companies to address the loss of foodservice markets for cheese manufacturers.
“At CDR, our work centers around supporting the dairy industry through innovation and research,” says Lucey. “The research we do, which is supported in part by dairy farmers and the dairy industry, is key to providing new solutions to the challenges the dairy industry is facing.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, (608) 509-2399
Mary Hayney on: Use of chloroquine hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19
Mary Hayney, a professor in the School of Pharmacy, is available to discuss the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19. Hayney is an expert on vaccines and emergency preparedness and the immunization of immunosuppressed individuals.
James Kossin on: Hurricanes getting stronger
In almost every region of the world where hurricanes form, their maximum sustained winds are getting stronger. That is according to a new study by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Center for Environmental Information and University of Wisconsin-Madison Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, who analyzed nearly 40 years of hurricane satellite imagery.
“Our results show that these storms have become stronger on global and regional levels, which is consistent with expectations of how hurricanes respond to a warming world,” says Jim Kossin, a NOAA scientist based at UW–Madison and lead author of the paper. “It’s a good step forward and increases our confidence that global warming has made hurricanes stronger, but our results don’t tell us precisely how much of the trends are caused by human activities and how much may be just natural variability.”
Vicki Bier on: The risks and benefits of re-opening
Vicki Bier is a risk analyst with a background in pandemic preparedness. She is available to talk about the decisions likely to face policymakers as they consider the questions surrounding re-opening, including the risk/benefit factors for employment, business, and public health.
Rebekah Pare on: The job market for graduates in the era of COVID-19
Rebekah Pare, executive director of UW-Madison's Letters & Science Career Initiative and Career Services, is available to discuss the waiting job market for graduates in the era of COVID-19. She can comment on:
- Internship and job placement
- Career preparation and return on investment in higher education
- Liberal arts education and career readiness
- Career preparation for college students
Pare says, "College students are graduating into a recession that is rapidly worsening. With job and internship offers being rescinded and start dates postponed, UW-Madison is providing much need support to enable students to build experiences and skills, find mentors, and connect with alumni and industry partners to get those jobs and internships that do still exist."
Sharon Dunwoody on: How should journalists cover coronavirus preprint studies?
When a story in the Los Angeles Times recently claimed that the novel coronavirus behind COVID-19 had mutated into a more contagious version, it was quickly amplified by other outlets and stoked fears that the virus was becoming more dangerous.
The problem is, that wasn't necessarily true. Scientists quickly took to Twitter to point out the research paper the story was based on was a preprint - a first draft of scientific findings. The research had flaws of its own, several scientists said, and was overstating its conclusions about the contagiousness of the virus.
With the public hungry to get word of strange symptoms, new treatments or useful predictions, news coverage of preprints could unintentionally share bad information if journalists aren't vigilant, says Sharon Dunwoody, emeritus professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"Most individuals invest little time in evaluating what they're seeing. Even if they might know what to look for, they just don't give much time to it," she says. "So, the onus is on the journalist. They have to be extra careful."
Read more here.
Patrick Liesch on: 'Murder hornets'
Asian giant hornets, also known as "murder hornets," are making headlines after being spotted in Washington state. But good news. Despite their nickname, they don't have it out for humans, P.J. Liesch says. "They're harmless unless you're a cicada," he says. Liesch can discuss.
Jeff Sindelar on: Meat supply chain challenges
Jeff Sindelar, associate professor and extension meat specialist in the UW–Madison Department of Animal Sciences, is an expert on meat processing, quality, safety, supply chain and consumption. He can discuss challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic on the meat supply chain and the meat industry, including plant closures and slowdowns, and the impacts the situation is having on livestock producers, processors, retailers and consumers.
“The United States maintains the most abundant, safest, and cheapest food supplies in the world and this hasn’t happened by accident. Decades of research, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit has enabled us to enjoy the products from our highly systems-based approach to food production,” says Sindelar. “Right now, our meat supply system is challenged, but it’s important to emphasize that it has an extremely low probability of collapse. Impulse-driven reactions such as over-purchasing meat and poultry products can place additional stress on the system. At this time, it’s extremely important for consumers to remain calm in their purchasing habits and trust in the many people who are working adamantly to find solutions and return things to normalcy.”
Andrew W. Stevens on: Impacts on supply and demand
Agricultural markets and food supply chains are complex and vary from product to product. Understanding how the supply of and demand for food will respond to a major shock like COVID-19 requires understanding production processes, supply chain infrastructure and consumer preferences, notes Andrew Stevens, an assistant professor in the UW–Madison Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. And, importantly, there are differences in what we can expect to see in the short-run vs. the medium- and long-runs. Stevens, an expert in applied agricultural and food policy, can discuss how the agricultural and food industries face a number of unique challenges that differentiate them from other sectors of the economy:
- Timing of production processes: Crops take time and space to grow, so farmers are constrained by how quickly they can adjust to changing market forces. Similarly, livestock producers are constrained by the lifecycle dynamics of their animals.
- The role of refrigeration in the food supply chain: Refrigeration is critical for meat, vegetable, fruit, and dairy supply chains. It is also very expensive and constrained in the short-run.
- Changes in consumption patterns: There has been a major shift away from consuming food outside of the home (restaurants, etc.) to consuming more food at home, which differentially affects the demand for different foods. Many vegetable, meat, and dairy products, for example, rely heavily on restaurant demand.
- Labor disruptions: Many high-value foods (meat, dairy, vegetables, fruits, etc.) rely heavily on low-wage and/or immigrant labor. Disruptions in this labor market due to COVID-19 concerns and changing immigration policy put additional strain on the food supply chain.
“The agricultural sector is a complex web of producers, processors, transporters, wholesalers, and retailers,” says Stevens. “The COVID-19 pandemic is a massive shock to this supply chain and is already disrupting business as usual. In the short-run, we may see temporary product shortages or unharvested food as markets adjust. In the longer-run, it is still not yet clear what the ultimate impacts of COVID-19 will be.”
Contact: email@example.com, (608) 262-4376 (office), (612) 790-5055 (cell), Twitter: @agronoeconomist
Ron Kean on: Poultry production systems
Ron Kean, faculty associate and extension poultry specialist in the UW–Madison Department of Animal Sciences, is an expert in poultry production and management. He is available to discuss the impact of the pandemic on poultry production systems.
“I have not heard of any plant closures here in Wisconsin, but it's likely a matter of time,” says Kean. “Some turkey plants have been shut down in Minnesota, and there have been instances of euthanizing broilers on the east coast, due to a lack of processing plant space. So far, the poultry plants don't seem to have had as many [COVID-19] cases as with some of the red-meat plants, but it may just be a matter of time, geographics, and other factors.
“The numbers of eggs set for future flocks has been cut quite a bit, in an effort to decrease problems in the future. It will take about 10 weeks for this change to get to the processing plants,” he adds. “I think people are expecting consumption from foodservice, restaurants, etc. to remain depressed for a while. If poultry consumption increases rapidly at some point, there could be some shortages, and an increase in prices.”
Daniel Schaefer on: Beef production systems
Dan Schaefer, emeritus professor in the UW–Madison Department of Animal Sciences, is an expert in beef production systems, meat quality and rumen microbiology. He is available to discuss U.S. beef cattle production systems, including industry organization, economics, and cattle biology.
“I taught our department’s beef cattle production course from 1981 to 2019. In that span of time, consumers have never needed to be concerned about their supply of food, so nuances came to the forefront—antibiotics, grass-fed, organic, local, cell-cultured meat,” says Schaefer. “Now, the nation's industry is challenged to keep its doors open for business. The COVID-19 situation is stressful for all involved, including cattle producers, packing plants, distributors, retailers and consumers.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, (608) 445-6852
Michael Wagner on: Fact-checking and conspiracy theories during the pandemic
Wagner, an expert on political communication, media and American politics, can discuss the role of fact-checking in the media, who is most likely to learn from COVID-19 fact-checking, and which people are most vulnerable to conspiracy theories.
Wagner says, "The most important thing is for people to admit what they don’t know. When people guess about a fact, they are less likely to learn from a fact check as compared to those who just admit it if they don’t know the answer to something. The hardest people to persuade are those who are not only wrong, but very confident in their opinion.
Labeling a news story a fact check causes people to be more likely to learn the important facts about an issue when they read the fact-check as compared to reading the very same story when it is not called a fact-check.”
Ian Coxhead on: Coronavirus impact on global and domestic markets
Economist Ian Coxhead is available to talk about the impact of the coronavirus on global and domestic economies. According to Coxhead:
- The industries most affected are those supplying “people-intensive” services such as travel, tourism, restaurants and sporting and cultural events.
- Fears of a recession to come are causing consumers to cut back on a wider range of purchases.
- Hourly and gig workers, individuals with inadequate health insurance, and other economically vulnerable households will be first and most affected.
- Policy priorities are to stem the spread of the disease, stabilize the economy, and provide a safety net for vulnerable households.
Coxhead says: “The US could learn a lot about eonomic policy responses from countries like South Korea and Italy. To date, federal response to the pandemic has been too little, too late, and mostly the wrong measures.”
R. Alta Charo on: COVID-19 medical ethics
Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics, can discuss medical ethics related to COVID-19. She is a member of the COVID-19 ethics advisory committee for the University of Nebraska Medical Center, one of the few institutions that has received repatriated Americans for quarantine and isolation relating to the outbreak. Some of the issues her committee is examining include resource allocation, response from clinicians, institutional ethics and interagency impact on decision-making.
Dominique Brossard on: Risk communication
Dominique Brossard is an expert in public opinion dynamics related to risk issues, such as pandemics. She can discuss public behaviors in the context of fearful situations; media coverage of such issues; social media dynamics and misinformation exchange; how people understand and process scientific information; and the role played by trust. She can also give advice on the best way to communicate in times of public health crisis. (Note: Brossard is fluent in English, French and Spanish.)
“It is extremely important to take into account what we know about the science of risk communication in order to make sure we can control this pandemic in a timely fashion,” Brossard says. “We are in this together, and we will solve it together.”
Thomas Friedrich on: Coronavirus, from the perspective of a virologist who studies it
Thomas Friedrich, a professor of pathobiological sciences, is a coronavirus researcher. He is available to talk about how the virus is transmitted and its evolution and processes. He can also discuss social distancing and COVID-19 testing.
David Drake on: Wildlife response to coronavirus quarantines
David Drake, an urban wildlife specialist, is available to talk about how wildlife is a responding to a world with a reduced human impact. Drake can discuss the zoonotic nature of COVID-19, animal sightings as a form of stress reduction, and the benefits to people and animals due to the reduction of pollution and trash in world under quarantine.
Drake says, "Wildlife have featured prominently in the news during the Covid-19 pandemic for a couple of reasons. First off, evidence suggests that the Covid-19 virus likely originated in at least one species of bat in China, and then transferred to humans. Second, people have delighted in seeing wildlife in and around cities that they normally don't see."
Tim Osswald on: 3-D printing to fill the gap in crucial medical equipment
Tim Osswald is a professor of mechanical engineering and an expert on 3D printing. The technique, Osswald says, can be used to help fill immediate needs in producing critical medical equipment that's in short supply due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"In this crisis, 3D printing is a perfect fabrication technique to manufacture spare parts for equipment where not a large number of parts are required. For example, splitters can be easily 3D printed," Osswald says. "A splitter transforms a ventilator so it can be used on 2 or more patients. On a larger scale, 3D printing can be used to manufacture swabs, however, not at a rate high enough as it can be done with injection molding. That said, many hospitals have a shortage of swabs, and 3D printing them is an immediate fix. One can potentially print 500 swabs per machine per day."
Monica Theis on: Food safety
Monica Theis can discuss food safety concerns related to grocery shopping as well as restaurant carry-out, curb-side pickup and delivery. She can also discuss meal planning, food preparation, healthy eating and dining habits during this "Safer at Home" period.
Theis notes that, according to the FDA and the CDC, there is no evidence that COVID-19 spreads through food. Standard practices in restaurants already include the most important preventive measures: keeping sick employees out of the operation, enforcing correct and frequent hand-washing, cleaning and sanitizing all food contact surfaces on a regular basis, and cooking foods to minimal internal end-point temperatures. She says the grocery industry is working to keep shelves stocked, keep employees healthy and has implemented shopping practices to protect customers. Many grocers are reducing store hours to allow for frequent and deep cleaning, as well as limiting the number of customers permitted in stores at a given time to enable proper "social distancing."
"Please know that there is no evidence at this time that this virus can be transmitted through food. The primary route of transmission is person-to-person," says Theis. "Theoretically, a virus could be 'picked up' from a surface and then transferred through touching one's eyes, nose or mouth; however, according to the CDC, this is not considered a primary route of transmission. My best advice is to follow the best food handling practices that are recommended any time: wash hands frequently and thoroughly, keep surfaces (especially food contact surfaces) clean, and cook food to the correct temperatures."
Dietram Scheufele on: Information, misinformation and public understanding of the pandemic
COVID-19 is a “new” type of crisis for science. Much of the scientific facts about the virus and the likely effectiveness of vaccines or therapies emerges in real time as the crisis spreads. Dietram Scheufele, Taylor-Bascom Professor of Science Communication in the Department of Life Sciences Communication, can answer questions related to information, misinformation and public understanding of the COVID-19 crisis, such as: How can we all make sense of the deluge of information and misinformation that’s coming our way? What can journalists and scientists do to better communicate about coronavirus and about societal debates emerging in its wake? And how can societies reasonably weigh difficult options, including logistics for reopening the economy or tracking private cell phones to monitor infections?
In 2017, Scheufele vice-chaired a committee for the National Academies that summarized what is known about how to best communicate science during times of crisis. He notes that the conclusions from that report (available at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/23674/communicating-science-effectively-a-research-agenda), and from science communication research more broadly, are crucially important as we try to find ways out of a crisis that is a complicated amalgam of biology, public health, and social science.
“Not only is there a lot the scientific community does not yet know about COVID-19, but much of what it thinks it knows—what it now considers 'accurate'—could turn out to be wrong,” says Scheufele. “When today’s facts can easily become tomorrow’s fictions, it is difficult to even define ‘misinformation,’ much less to ‘correct’ it. So it’s important to explore what strategies can we use to effectively sift through all the (mis)information coming our way? And what can we do to make sure we rely on the best evidence when we decide whether to wear masks or to get takeout from our local restaurant?”
Karen Smith on: Loneliness and self-isolation
Karen Smith, an expert on how people respond to stress and a post-doctoral student in psychology, can discuss why some people may suffer from loneliness as a result of self-isolation and social distancing. Smith is available for interviews about why limiting exposure to negative news and practices like meditation can combat loneliness, and how the stress and self-isolation associated with COVID-19 could affect child development.
Menzie Chinn on: The economic impact of coronavirus
Menzie Chinn, an expert on international finance and monetary policy, is available for analysis on the economic impact of coronavirus,. Chinn can discuss:
- International economic effects of this pandemic
- Trade policy and pandemic response
- Fiscal policy (including spending, taxes, transfers to states, deficits, debt)
- Monetary policy response to this pandemic
- Consumption and investment behavior
Mark Stephenson on: Impacts on dairy markets and policy
Mark Stephenson, director of dairy policy analysis with the UW–Madison Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and UW–Madison Division of Extension, can discuss the impact of COVID-19 on dairy prices, including the potential for market loss.
“In 2019 Wisconsin lost dairy farms at more than double the typical rate, after enduring five years of low milk prices,” says Stephenson. “Two months ago, dairy markets were expecting a continued milk price recovery that had begun in the fourth quarter of 2019. As the reality of COVID-19 sets in, farmers now realize that 2020 will not be a year of milk price recovery, but rather another difficult year.”
Read more here.
Bret Shaw on: Strategic communication and behavior change
Bret Shaw, an expert in strategic communication designed to encourage behavior change related to environmental and health-related issues, can discuss the role of communication and social psychology to influence the public to adopt certain practices, such as social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Using strategic communication and behavior change principles to encourage people to adopt practices such as physical distancing is essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Shaw says. “Well-intended efforts to influence behavior change often depend on sharing information, but it is well known that information alone is typically insufficient to change behavior. Using principles from social psychology and strategic communication, we can make a difference in influencing people to adopt behaviors that prevent the spread of illness and save lives.”
Jordan Ellenberg on: Using mathematical models to forecast the pandemic
Jordan Ellenberg is a professor of mathematics and the author of the book, “How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking.” He can talk about the forecasting models being used to predict the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic, both their structure and their limits.
R. Bradley Pierce on: Air pollution response to human retreat during pandemic
Bradley Pierce, director of UW-Madison's Space Science and Engineering Center, and Ankur Desai, a professor atmospheric and oceanic sciences, can talk about global air quality improvements during the coronavirus epidemic. Pierce can also discuss ozone precursor emissions, as observed from space using the new European TropOMI sensor.
Pierce says, "As countries, states, and communities all work together to limit the spread of the coronavirus by implementing "Safe at Home" policies we find that the global air quality has responded in a dramatic way. Measurements from the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) on the European Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite provide an opportunity to monitor these changes in air quality and relate them to reductions in nitrogen dioxide emissions from automobiles. These measurements can help monitor the effectiveness of the policies world wide."
Sarah Halpern-Meekin on: Poverty and the pandemic
Sarah Halpern-Meekin, an expert on poverty and social and welfare policy, can talk about the impact the coronavirus epidemic is having on people struggling with poverty and economic stability. She can discuss:
- How low-income families try to make ends meet
- How low-income families and individuals get assistance from public benefit programs (and when they don't)
- Ways in which people struggle with loneliness and social isolation, especially among young adults and low-income parents
- Before the pandemic, there was a growing population of prime-age men who were out of the labor force. What happens to them now, and what can we learn from this group that might hint at what's to come for others who find themselves out of the labor force now?
- How people deal with parenting and trying to make romantic relationships work under stressful conditions
"The pandemic is shining a bright spotlight on fundamental issues that so many individuals and families struggle with during "normal" times: trying to make ends meet, not being able to rely on assistance programs to pull them through tough situations, parenting and trying to make romantic relationships work under stressful conditions, and dealing with loneliness and social isolation."