Villanova Faculty Share Their Expertise on the Coronavirus Pandemic

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During this unprecedented time with the public looking for the latest accurate and timely information on coronavirus (COVID-19), Villanova University faculty have been active in sharing their expertise on various aspects of the pandemic, including health, psychology, history, education, economy and more.

Below are faculty from across the University who can offer expertise on these areas. To see comments from Villanova's faculty in the news, click on the Experts in the Media tab.

If you're interested in speaking with any of our experts, email mediaexperts@villanova.edu and we would be happy to help setup an interview.

Joseph Comber, PhD, Biology, Instructor

I’m concerned about comparisons people are making to influenza. Unfortunately, most people don’t think influenza is a big deal and are waving this virus off to be similar. Even doctors and scientists are comparing the two and saying things like ‘why don’t we care this much about flu?’. I get it on some level, but we also have antivirals and vaccines for influenza to at least slow spread. We have none of that for this virus. 

There is an interesting story about the 1918 influenza pandemic in Philadelphia. In September the city hosted a parade. Three days later every bed in every hospital in the city was full (31 hospitals) and just over a week later 2500+ people had died. I don’t think this virus is as deadly so we shouldn’t worry about that kind of impact per se, but we should worry about large scale gatherings especially in cities and states that are not robustly testing for the virus.

Katherine Iacocca, PhD, Assistant Professor, Management

"I don't think that you'll see any issues. In uncertain times like these the human condition causes us the rally together; not exploit for profit. At this time, pharma companies are focused on doing what they can (e.g. work on a vaccine)."

Kevin Minbiole, PhD, Professor, Chemistry

From Insider:

According to Minbiole, soap also helps kill germs because of the polar and nonpolar ends in its molecular structure. The polar end helps soap dissolve in water, and the nonpolar end helps grab oil off your hands and carry it down the sink. It's the nonpolar end that disrupts the outsides of bacteria and viruses, causing them to burst and die. 

 

Bob Leggiadro, MD, Adjunct Professor, Biology

"It is believed that the virus spreads mainly from person to person among close contacts, which is defined as about six feet, through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Persons are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic."

Donna S. Havens, PhD, RN, FAAN and Peter Kaufmann, PhD

The College of Nursing has launched a national 20-year longitudinal study to examine data on the physical health, mental health and well-being of workers potentially exposed to the COVID-19 virus. The COVID-19 Caring About Health for All Study (CHAMPS) will assess the short and long-term physical, social and behavioral health of all who were involved in supporting or delivering care for COVID-19 patients. It will also serve as a registry for future, hypothesis-driven sub-studies of behavioral and biological coping mechanisms and allostatic load (wear and tear on the body), as well as randomized clinical trials. Participants will be recruited throughout the United States and its territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands) with outcomes followed longitudinally for 20 years.

“It is vital that we learn from this experience and understand the broad scope of the impact on the health of those on the front lines, their potential future health needs and to contribute knowledge to inform public health strategies that provide effective care when similar crises develop in the future,” says Donna S. Havens, PhD, RN, FAAN, Connelly Endowed Dean of the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, and co-principal investigator of the study. She is a health services researcher with broad international experience and research addressing the nursing practice environment and the quality of patient care in hospitals and emergency rooms. 

Peter Kaufmann, PhD, Associate Dean of Research and Innovation, is the principal investigator of the CHAMPS study. His experience in large, multi-site clinical trials and observational studies was acquired at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. "We owe it to the police officers, paramedics, service staff, nurses and physicians, to learn about the effects that their sacrifices have had on their lives – and we will accomplish this through the CHAMPS study," says Kaufmann.

villanova.edu/CHAMPS .

Libby Mills, MS, RD, LDN, FAND, Registered Dietician, Nursing

Many restaurants are minimizing exposure to the virus by doing exclusively takeout, which can limit your direct person-to-person exposure to just the person handing you the food curbside or at the point of delivery.  The risk with the hand off can be lessened further if you tip electronically.

Doing takeout limits your direct contact with surfaces that could be contaminated, such as door handles, tabletops and menus since ordering can be done from a personal computer or phone.  Though some research has shown that the virus can live on surfaces for up to three days, there are many variables that can shorten its life like time, temperature and exposure to ultra violet light. 

Though there is currently no evidence that the virus is transmitted via food or the packaging, washing your hands before and after unpacking your food delivery and always before eating is a good idea.  Wash the surface where the package sat with soap and water.

 

Bob Leggiadro, MD, Adjunct Professor, Biology

"Healthcare personnel should care for patients in an Airborne Infection Isolation Room. Standard Precautions, Contact Precautions, and Airborne Precautions with eye protection should be used when caring for the patient."

Suzanne C. Smeltzer, EdD, RN, ANEF, FAAN

Richard and Marianne Kreider Endowed Professor in Nursing for Vulnerable Populations 

"Individuals with disability may be at increased risk of Covid-19 infection because of their underlying disabling condition. They have a smaller margin of safety or health than those without disabilities, which puts them at risk for more serious complications if they do develop the infection. Individuals with disability who live in long-term facilities or group homes may also be at high risk for Covid-19 because of the difficulty in practicing social distancing.

An important issue for those with disability who develop the infection is they  may be deprived of life-saving treatments, such as intubation and mechanical ventilation, if they are viewed as less deserving because they have a disability. 

Advocates for individuals with disability are working to ensure that those at risk for or who develop coronavirus infection receive health care that is no less than that for those without disability. 

Linda Copel, PhD, RN, Professor of Nursing

“Intimate partner violence, also known as domestic violence, is a global health problem, and in the U.S. one in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, episodes of domestic violence occurred every 15 seconds in the U.S. But the current restrictions preventing the spread of COVID19 could drastically increase the incidence of violence against women. Some U.S. agencies are already reporting increases in intimate partner violence. Nurses are well prepared to identify and educate women on types of abuse and to assist in formulating plans for safety, family care and treatment interventions for the victim.”

Melissa O'Connor, PhD, Associate Professor, Nursing

From Parade:

For new or urgent issues, Melissa O’Connor, PhD, a registered nurse and an associate professor at Villanova University's College of Nursing, recommends “calling a Medicare-certified home health agency to request an evaluation by a visiting nurse and/or a physician office that offers home visits.” You can also, she says, consider a telehealth visit, which many home health agencies and some retail pharmacies offer.”

 

From Bloomberg :

Home-health agencies are telling workers to screen new patients by telephone for Covid-19 symptoms when they call for service and prior to each visit, said Melissa O’Connor, who chairs the board of trustees at the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Philadelphia. “We’re also telling nurses, if you are not well do not go to work.”

Katherine Lucatorto, DNP, RN, Clinical Assistant Professor, Nursing

“We are cooped up with each other and we didn't ask to be. It is not like a planned family vacation. However, it is being socially responsible in the midst of a very uncertain time and we agree this is what is most important. It is also 'claiming our own work territory' in our small home so we can keep up with our daily work and school demands. It is navigating around each other’s needs and respecting each other in a new way. Home has become the 'office' so we are learning about the daily demands we all experience - and may be cause for coming home in an irritable mood once in a while.”


“But social isolation is also forcing us to slow down a bit. Beyond catching up on Netflix, we talked about playing games, baking, and doing crafts. We discussed the importance of taking a walk as a way to decrease stress but also a way to enjoy nature and the beauty of the upcoming spring. We all seem to talk about what a fast-paced world we live in. Perhaps there may be a bit of a silver lining in this very tumultuous time. Having to STOP may be the way we learn to enjoy each other's company in a new way, to be more empathic, loving and to prioritize what is most important...family relationships."

Sunny Hallowell, PhD, PPCNP-BC, IBCLC, Assistant Professor, Nursing

"Social distancing does not apply to newborns.  The most effective way to protect a newborn from COVID-19 is to breastfeed.  COVID-19 has not been detected in breastmilk."

"Some hospitals may require mothers to be temporarily separated from their infants if they actively symptomatic with COVID-19 of until their screening test is returned and is negative.  Infants can still benefit from their mothers’ expressed breastmilk, but mothers need to practice vigilant handwashing before and after handling their infant. However, an infected mother can still choose to breastfeed but she should wear a face mask and wash her hands."

Michael Moreland, JD, PhD, University Professor of Law and Religion

"Determining care for patients is mostly from hospital-level ethics committees, though New York State in 2015 convened a task force that issued a report on ventilator allocation and many people now are looking at that report’s recommendations. At the federal level, there are civil rights protections against discrimination based on age or disability, and those provisions may have some application in this context. 

In terms of enforcement,  the federal civil rights protections could be enforced against hospitals if there were straightforward instances of age or disability discrimination, and HHS has issued guidance to that effect. But much of this will be guided by physicians and hospital ethics committees trying to grapple with the issue at the clinical level.

This situation is somewhat like the trolley car experiment—and that, in turn, forces people to think through what their deeper ethical views are (utilitarianism or its alternatives).

I think the New York Task Force recommendations are close to getting the issue right. There should be a comparison of the benefits of treatment and likelihood of success against the burdens on the patient (and others who could benefit from the treatment). Simplistic approaches that deny care to those over a certain age or suffer from disabilities are deeply problematic, in my view, thought that does not preclude taking age or other conditions into account when assessing the likelihood that a treatment will succeed."

Michelle Kelly, PhD, Assistant Professor, Nursing

"I am acutely worried about the mental health of children and adolescents whose lives are already so stressful. Before COVID19 we had asignificant pediatric mental health crisis with limited access to qualified health care providers. Over the next few weeks, as this plays out across America, we will have a significant spike in anxiety and depression in children of all ages. With schools and primary care offices closed, access will reduce further. One solution is to increase access to providers via tele-health – but tele-health visits only work if there is an access point, and a provider on the other end of the line."

Donna S. Havens, PhD, RN, FAAN,  Connelly Endowed Dean of the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing

Donna S. Havens, PhD, is an expert on nursing education, nurse staffing and nursing environments. She predicts there will be increased interest in nursing as a career because of COVID-19 and the significant role nurses have played.

Dean Havens' academic research has focused on emergency room staffing, a timely topic. “Emergency departments are chaotic places, and healthcare professionals have been struggling with how the door never closes and how you never know what’s coming through the door next. And we’re going to see a lot of traumatic stress.”

Dean Havens adds, “Nurses have always been the glue to hold the healthcare system together, and the patients. It’s the nurses holding the phone up to the dying patients so family can say goodbye.”

Joseph Comber, PhD, Biology, Instructor

"The data indicate that as the virus makes its way into a new area, cases rise incredibly fast. This will put a tremendous strain on the health-care facilities in the United States. Hospitals are already working under tight conditions with number of beds available for patients and an surge in cases will definitely stress the system."

Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD, Associate Professor, Nursing; Director of Center for Global and Public Health

From: Arise! With Bill Fletcher (March 20)

“This is a pause for us to think about how we’re living, what we’re doing to our planet, how we live within our communities, and how we might think about that differently to prevent more infectious diseases.”

Jie Xu, PhD, Associate Professor, Communication

From Good Housekeeping:

“I suggest signing up for the alert systems provided by your local government," says Jie Xu, Ph.D., professor of communications who conducts public health research at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. "Don’t argue with people on Facebook, which just adds another layer of stress, and consider limiting your time on social media so you avoid misinformation and constant bad news.”

 

Heather Coletti, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Philosophy

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Remember, Coletti said, we’ve never seen a pandemic of this proportion in modern times. It is stressful. There are going to be days when we’re going to sleep in, work straight through without breaks, and stay up until 3 a.m. Netflixin’. And that’s OK. “The best thing we can do is forgive ourselves when we stumble, accept this as our new normal, and treat each other — and ourselves — with grace.”

Melissa O'Connor, PhD, MBA, RN, Associate Professor of Nursing

"Telehealth visits, in place of a canceled office visit or home health visit, are a great option for all ages but particularly for older adults to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Due to the current shut-down, Medicare has temporarily expanded its coverage of telehealth services. Some telehealth services require special equipment while others only a smartphone. Many providers are making telehealth available including physicians, nurse practitioners, home health agencies, clinical psychologists, counselors and social workers."

Services that can be provided via telehealth include evaluation and management of chronic and non-life threatening acute conditions, mental health counseling, wellness monitoring as well as vital sign, blood sugar and weight monitoring to name a few. Telehealth can be easy to use depending upon the equipment employed.  If used on a tablet, fonts tend to be large with short, simple directions.  If using a cellphone, fonts are smaller but still short and simple ways to communicate how you are feeling and easy to describe the symptoms you are experiencing. 

 

William Kelly, PhD, Professor, Biochemical Engineering and Bioprocessing

"Developing, testing and then distributing a new vaccine takes time and effort.  Fortunately there is a promising vaccine that was developed in Feb. 2020 by the biotech company Moderna. They used information provided by Chinese scientists in January of 2020 to very quickly develop an RNA molecule that's the active ingredient in their new vaccine candidate. In record time this new vaccine was introduced into humans in March, as Phase I clinical trials began. Phase 1 and Phase II trials involve small numbers of healthy patients, and typically take a few months each to determine the safety of the vaccine at different dosing regimens.  If all goes well for this product, it might begin Phase III trials evaluating the efficacy as early as fall of 2020. The Moderna Vaccine, or other vaccines being developed by other biotech companies, could then be available should an outbreak occur again."

Zuyi "Jacky" Huang, PhD, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering

"While vaccines are in clinical trials to trigger human bodies to generate antibodies for combating COVID 19, it is expensive and time-consuming for vaccine development. An economic and efficient therapeutic strategy is to repurpose existing drugs. The scientific community is in a race to develop antiviral agents for the aforementioned steps that are essential for the rapid replication of COVID 19 in human cells. For examples, Arbidol and remdesivir are in clinical trials for testing their capability to prevent viral entry into host cells and inhibit RNA synthesis, respectively. However, these antiviral agents have relatively low binding affinity with their targets."

"Our group at Villanova is implementing computational approaches to identify FDA-approved drugs that can be used to inhibit the functions of known COVID-19 proteases. Identifying effective drugs is like finding the right key for the lock (i.e., COVID-19 proteases). The computational platform developed at Villanova can significantly accelerate the process to identify COVID-19 protease inhibitors. Thirteen compounds along with the common crystal structures have been identified by the Villanova team for inhibiting COVID-19 protease. The Villanova team is seeking clinical collaborators to test the identified compounds and their structures. If succeeds, it will be of great value to help people combat the COVID 19 pandemic."

Pete Zaleski, PhD, Professor, Economics

"The government needs income verification that is consistent across all recipients. Thus, there is a need to have all low income households file to verify/prove that they are indeed low income. The data demands are a bit complicated already. It's not as easy as it might sound to run this. Asking the government to search multiple sources for income verification would only raise the administrative cost of this distribution. Not all social security recipients are in low income households; so, it's not as simple as just going the SSA database of recipients. They would have to cross match that file against an IRS database of tax filings to see who they missed."

Beth Vallen, PhD, Associate Professor, Marketing

"I think that this will change the way in which people shop—particularly younger people. We have grown accustomed to having everything we want and need when we want and need it. Out of laundry detergent? It can be delivered to your door the next morning by 9 am. Hungry and not liking what’s in the pantry? A local restaurant will deliver exactly what you crave right to your door. For many, this is the first time we’ve encountered disruptions to the supply chain, and as a result anxiety about not having the things we need (or want). For the first time many families are stockpiling necessary supplies and considering have emergency stores of food—in direct contrast to the just-in-time delivery models upon which we typically rely. I would expect people to approach stockpiling differently in the post-COVID-19 era."

Paul W. Bernhardt, Associate Professor of Statistics 

Statistically speaking, the U.S. seems to be at the “top of the flattened curve”.  We have one of the highest positive rates in the world with respect to # positive results/# tests given.  And the bad news is that the percent is not declining (it’s been around 20% nationwide for a month, and as high as 55% in New Jersey).  If a country is truly “testing enough” they should be testing many individuals who do not actually have the virus to try to prevent it’s spread (for example, co workers of someone diagnosed, those at high risk, medical workers).  The fact that we are still having around a 20% positive rate is perhaps evidence that we will have a longer time at the top of our flattened curve because we aren’t testing many individuals who should be tested.  Then, there are not only individuals who do not know they have the virus (either asymptomatic or before symptoms) and continue to spread the virus.

Kathleen Iacocca, PhD, Assistant Professor, Management

"People have to eat, so if the supply of meat decreases, we can expect demand for other food products to go up. Notably, we will likely see an increase in frozen food and dry goods before fresh produce. Pork does not seem to have the same shortage as beef and chicken, so we may also see a shift toward pork consumption.

Regardless of where the demand shift occurs, this could put a strain on the short term supply chain of other foods until production can catch up with demand. Luckily, these supply chains have had some warning and historic buying patterns of consumers given the past few weeks.

I would expect prices of meat to noticeably increase. You can’t create more supply overnight and demand will likely increase simply over the fear of a shortage. Remember, too, that you have restaurants, who are already strained due to this pandemic, that have to buy meat too. This shortage and resulting price increase will certainly add extra strain to local restaurants who are already struggling."

Michael Moreland, JD, PhD, University Professor of Law and Religion

Professor Moreland can discuss tort liability as it relates to businesses and re-opening the econmy during the coronavirus pandemic. 

From The Hill:

Some pro-business groups have warned that the coronavirus pandemic could provoke an avalanche of litigation against companies and industries that are reacting on the fly to new government and consumer demands around the pandemic. 

They’re warning that trial lawyers see an opportunity to bring claims against hospitals, nursing homes, manufacturing plants and grocery stores that could become a financial drain on companies that are already straining to keep up with new demands and public policy around the coronavirus outbreak.

Sutirtha Bagchi, PhD, Assistant Professor, Economics

Dr. Bagchi can discuss how the spike in unemployment is likely to stress state unemployment trust funds, which are largely funded and managed by state governments or how the steep drop in the stock market from its recent highs is going to stress public-sector pension plans even more.  

Michael Semes, Professor of Practice, Law

"Most states have to balance budget every year (or, in some cases like TX, every other year), many with a June 30 year-end date. With many states following the IRS extension of 4/15 payment deadline to 7/15, states are going to have a much softer Q4 than expected - and this means budget deficits for year ending 6/30/20.

COVID19 is expected to cause FY21 revenue to also decline. Income tax revenues will fall off because salaries and corporate profits will be down. Sales tax revenues will be down because people will be spending less. Gaming and entertainment tax revenues will be down because these establishments are closed. It will be a challenge nationwide. For example, New York state (which had a March 31 year-end) is already predicting its 3/31/21 revenues will be $4 to $11 billion less than originally projected."

Kathleen Iacocca, PhD, Assistant Professor, Management

"The supply chains are going to be massively disrupted. But supply chains are a well-oiled machine, living through lean manufactuing, just-in-time, analytical forecating and mass customization. Watch how fast those shelves are restocked given the explosion of demand. Products that can be manufactured will have shortages in the short run, but will recover quickly. Face masks are an example of this. The huge spike in demand now can't be absorbed but the supply chain will rebound quickly. Drugs that are needed will be the same way. The bigger issue is the supply or things that can't be manufactured - like hospital capacity or labor. This shortage is where the real threat lies, because the supply chain cannot help here."

Sutirtha Bagchi, PhD, Assistant Professor, Economics

David Fiorenza, Assistant Professor of Practice, Economics

From NBC Philadelphia:

Villanova Economics Professor David Fiorenza said the uptick makes sense. "We are a very big tourism and hospitality state. We are one of the top states in the country. Restaurants and casinos closed, that's a lot of jobs right there," Fiorenza explained.

According to Investopedia, Pennsylvania's tourism industry provides jobs for 490,000 people.

And those looking for new jobs may encounter another bump in the road.

"Some people have limited skill sets. They also may not be able to telecommute or shift into other industries. They may also have difficulty commuting, since their income levels may not support having a car," Fiorenza said.

Narda Quigley, PhD, Professor, Management

"Upon transitioning back into their regular working lives, women may find themselves further than ever from their next promotion. Organizations must be cognizant of this and understand that there are likely “hidden” ways that women are contributing to their ongoing ability to operate- and without this activity, their ability to continue with business-as-usual would grind to a halt. However, this would require a fundamental, culture-wide rethinking of how we value what types of work in this society, as American cultural norms are so strongly gender-specific."

Heather Coletti, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Philosophy

“In heteronormative households, women do the overwhelming bulk of caring labor for both children and adults-- the statistics for this are consistent and slow to change. Today, most of these women have full-time jobs as well. When these heads-of-household are both working from home, very consciously trying to prove their value to their employer while working remotely, I think families are going to face very intensely the frustrations of the sexual division of labor over the next few weeks."

Michael Moreland, JD, PhD, University Professor of Law and Religion

From Deseret News:

Policies don’t violate religious freedom laws if they’re created in order to save people’s lives, said Michael Moreland, director of the Ellen H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy at Villanova University.

“So long as those restrictions are neutral and applicable to everybody, religious institutions have to abide by them,” he said.

Derek Arnold, Senior Instructor, Communication

"Knowledge is power, even if it's dramatized and misleading because we really want to believe that we invest time reading and watching stories for good reason--they tell the 'truth,' and we were privileged to witness the account of it we saw/read/heard etc. And anything to give us reason to feel better about ourselves, as we are so often not able to possess that kind of power, the more likely we'll buy into these accounts, to blame someone else for our difficulties or just to assure ourselves that we 'know' the truth--so we'll still prize the 'fascinating' over the 'sad'."

"I've also been studying and introducing memes into my classroom teaching. They play really well into conspiracy theories, because they are quick and feed into the people that are already leaning in that political direction to agree with, and that those same people 'get it' as far as the humor/joke/message that 'others,' typically those who don't share the same political or even philosophical leanings, won't get and therefore aren't in on the joke or gain that sense of 'power'." 

Deborah Seligsohn, PhD, Assistant Professor, Political Science

Op-ed in The Washington PostThe U.S.-China collaboration on health collapsed under Trump. This is the cost.

From The Atlantic:

When SARS hit southern China in late 2002, the Bush administration played a crucial role in Beijing’s response. Deborah Seligsohn, a Villanova University political scientist who worked on science and health issues at the U.S. embassy in Beijing from 2003 to 2007, told me that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta sent 40 experts—under the auspices of the World Health Organization—to assist China in battling SARS. “They provided the majority of the international advice in combatting the disease,” Seligsohn said. The Americans helped their Chinese colleagues “create records, do contact tracing, do proper isolation—all the stuff you needed to do.” The effort, she said, “turned out to be strikingly successful.”

Sally Scholz, PhD., Chair, Philosophy

"These students have comforted and supported each other, emphasized the positive aspects of their time together, supported each other during bouts of anxiety and sadness and helped each other to find their way home. In addition, many of my current and former students have sent emails, called or met me on Zoom just to say hello and say they are thinking about me. The emails are wonderful reminders of how open and appreciative students are, even when they don’t always find the words to express it. They have taught me that the many in-person office visits—just to say hello—were not merely greetings, and they most definitely are not simple distractions from their work or mine. They are fundamentally human connections that emphasize the value each of us is to each other. Since they cannot stop by, they have found another way—this generation of “overly connected” students—to express the human side of that connection."

Jill McCorkel, PhD, Professor, Sociology & Criminology

Dr. McCorkel can discuss:

  • Her experience of conducting research in prisons during the 1990's with drug-resistant tuberculosis. 
  • In addition to concerns and shortages of hygiene and protective equipment, there is little to no air circulation in many prisons, particularly new prisons. The close proximity that prisoners are kept in are also a concern for the spread of coronavirus. 
  • Prisoners are negatively impacted by lockdowns with limited or no access to outside resources (research and education), legal services or visits from family.

Christa Bialka, EdD, Associate Professor, Education

"The biggest issue is that during a school “closure,” the school doesn’t have to provide special education services. There are additional implications (both from functional and systemic standpoints) regarding parents providing academic/emotional support while also having to work remotely—or if the parent still has to physically go to work, but the child is home. In line with so many other issues coming out of the pandemic, equity (or lack thereof) is a huge problem."

Jason Steinhauer, Director, Albert Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest

“Misinformation during the coronavirus pandemic is functioning almost identically to how it operated during other seismic events of the social media era: the 2016 Presidential election, Brexit, etc. There are hundreds of ‘fake news’ websites publishing fictitious stories, and unsubstantiated or misleading content is rapidly circulating through social media.

The structures of the social media platforms and the interconnected nature of the online media environment enable these phenomena time after time. So, at the same time that we think about how to get through this current crisis, this also should be an eye-opener for all of us: Despite the rhetoric against misinformation over the past five years, what actions do we still need to take to ensure information integrity when the next crisis comes?” 

Sarah-Vaughan Brakman, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy

From Vox:

"Cuomo, Biden, and Murphy are onto something: framing the need for social distancing as solidarity in action is much more meaningful and motivational than wonky (if accurate) discussions of “community mitigation strategies” and “flattening the curve.” Appealing to solidarity gives us a better chance of convincing people to practice social distancing. It is also the right move philosophically."

Linda Maldonado, PhD, RN, Assistant Professor, Nursing

The COVID -19 pandemic has been called a "societal equalizer" for its massive, deleterious effects across all strata of society.
The most vulnerable of our society, however, are still at a higher risk for negative outcomes. These communities may not be able to institute some of the COVID safety precautions due to financial and other constraints, thus placing them in a more precarious context. For example, social distancing assumes there is adequate space in a living environment to do so.
In many of our vulnerable communities in Philadelphia, for example, intergenerational family members live in shared spaces with little distancing possible. This is just one example of the inequities this pandemic is posing to our most vulnerable members of society. 

Marc Gallicchio, Ph.D, Chair, Department of History

"Presidents find it difficult to require sacrifice from the public. They know that the hard hand of the government will be resented so they try to rely on public coercion and peer pressure, bond rallies, propaganda messages and the like. The trick is to get Americans to think about the general welfare, even if it means personal sacrifice, when the entire economy and popular culture is geared towards telling them they should have what they want. That is a big reason why the United States partially mobilized in the Korean War and refused to call up the reserves and National Guard in the Vietnam War. Recall George W. Bush’s summons to Americans to go shopping."

"Americans were more united in WWII than most of their military ventures. There was no significant antiwar movement as there was in Vietnam and WWI. So WWII was different. But American leaders, notably FDR and General George Marshall constantly worried about losing support from the public if the war dragged on. In fact their strategy for winning the war was based on the assumption that public support was a wasting asset."

Joseph G. Ryan, O.S.A., Ph.D., Professor, History

A theme that we can see with these epidemics is hysteria and the scapegoating of people who are liminal and have no defenders. We also see nativism and xenophobia evident in people's response to epidemic illness. People who talk about the Chinese virus with respect to Coronavirus are guilty of xenophobia. Pandemics test the humanity of human populations and sometimes we are inhumane in the face of the fear of death from such diseases.  

  • 1348- Bubonic Plague: One third of Europe's population was carried away by this epidemic. It spread on trade routes. The event caused different expressions of hysteria among Europeans including the persecution of the Jewish community. 
  • 1832- Cholera:In the United States, Irish emigrants were scapegoated. Like plague, cholera traveled on the existing trade routes.
  • 1918- Spanish influenza: It was only given that name because the Spaniards were the first journalists to talk about the disease. Influenza came from Kansas and spread through the transport of American soldiers to Europe to fight World War One. It traveled to British colonies in India and Africa via the transport of British troops. The result was the rise of independence movements in these countries.
  • 1980s- HIV/AIDS: The HIV crisis reflected similar hysteria directed against gay men.
  • 2014- Ebola: Another event that reflected hysteria is the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. The governors of New York and New Jersey threatened to close their airports, though there was little chance of Ebola breaking out in the United States. To the best of my knowledge, only two Americans developed the disease. 

Marta Guron, PhD., Professor, Chemistry

"In terms of keeping things clean and sanitized, polymers are easier to clean than other materials. One of the benefits of plastics is that they tend to be relatively smooth and clean. They are engineered to be easy to clean. They are solid. As opposed to getting bacteria trapped in a soft texture (like a couch) if you have a harder plastic they are going to be easier to sanitize. Like in hospitals and healthcare facilities you already see this- there are no rugs, or soft surfaces. I have a feeling that there is going to be a spike in products that are easier to clean."

 

Kabindra Shakya, PhD, Assistant Professor, Geography and the Environment

From 6ABC:

"In terms of air pollution, there are a lot of different types of pollutants, but it's the ozone," said Kabinda Shakya, an assistant professor of environmental science at Villanova University.

Shakya published a report on air pollution in the city's different neighborhoods last year.

He says the usual high volume of cars is one of the reasons the American Lung Association gave the city an F last year in its annual "State of Air" report.

That's why he says while COVID-19 has been an awful and devastating pandemic, a byproduct of the quarantine is a break for the environment.

"One of the very few positive things we have seen from this COVID-19 is improvement in air quality that has been show in China and Italy," said Shakya.

Hasshi Sudler, Adjunct Professor, Electrical Engineering

"As individuals travel across borders, medical facilities need immutable, trustworthy medical data quickly and electronically. A critical requirement to contain coronavirus is to track any individual having tested positive and to track the health of anyone who has come in contact with that individual, even if those encounters were across borders. The blockchain can be a common source of data that allows medical facilities to share immutable information internationally."

"In the event of a pandemic, misinformation can be extremely dangerous. The public needs a way to confirm official statements made by reputable sources... The blockchain can serve as a means to verify quality advice the public should follow versus false claims the public should disregard."

Ilia Delio, O.S.F., Ph.D., Chair, Christian Theology

"With regard to the coronavirus and surveillance, the Chinese may be better off as they have no problem with technology monitoring their every move, including facial recognition screening and all other types of body surveillance. Confucianism supports this type of surveillance since it maintains many gods watching over every aspect of life. We in the west are having a harder time due to our individualism and right to freedom that we safeguard at all costs.  Our individualism and freedom is costing us in some ways by preventing a type of government regulated surveillance."

 

Jie Xu, PhD, Associate Professor, Communication

In China, most are supportive of this type of extreme face recognition, and the app that [scans your face and tells you via color ] where you can be going. That would never work in the US, for us that is too much privacy infringement. In China, Confucianism reinforces a collectivist culture. In America we think life is individual- you have sole ownership of your life, but in Chinese culture you tend to think you belong to a bigger family, your life is not your own. Coupled with a one party authoritarian political system and these unprecedented challenges facing people- every culture is different, we need to find out the policies and actions that could be more effective here in the US, because it may be different from what works in China.

 
Where is God in all of this? Is God hanging out, did God leave, is outbreak a punishment? No. God has a vision of flourishing life for us, but God will not do it for us. He is not a dictator or militant god, but a God of love. Love always restores freedom to the lover/beloved. God is using technology to move our globalized world into one of unity and greater compassion. I see this as an opportunity to “reboot our files.”
  • Technology can be really helpful to circumvent these type of pathogens in the future, but we don't want to lose humanity and lose human personhood as we are. How much do we want to sacrifice of what we are to become something new?
  • In a world of radical connectivity we can no longer operate like we're not related. Its important to recognize our deep connectivity- as we create artificial intelligence that hybridize us, will the increase in robotic life and human community enhance or change our ethics of care?

Jie Xu, PhD, Associate Professor, Communication

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

We have to learn how to broaden our perspective and feel like we aren’t doing it at the expense of our values, Xu said. The goal has to be to let new information in, not close it out. It’s important that we just don’t listen to conservative and liberal voices, Xu said, but we should read media from other communities — perhaps the Philadelphia Tribune or Al Dia. We should follow different voices on social media, too, to break the bubble and be uncomfortable.

“Even when you don’t agree,” Xu said. “It’s important that you hear people out. That is the only way our humanity can survive if we listen to each other.”"With coronavirus we're experiencing the first "infodemic" (a pandemic but from a communication perspective). There is so much misinformation, and the whole thing has been so politicized both here and globally with social media. Social media iss ubiquitous- you cannot avoid it at all unless you're really trying."

 

Social Media

"From a mental health perspective it may be good to dial down on your social media activities and all you see and hear is bad news, but at the same time we need info and guidance. We can only rely on what the scientists say. Screen time is going up and up for average Americans and globally as well, also people are…sometimes you are living in a bubble. We tend to socialize and be part of a group with opinions that are similar to ours. You're tying to hear what you want to hear. This reinforces preexisting positions, opinions or ideas you already have. Its hard too beak the cycle which is dangerous, especially if your information is inaccurate."

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