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COVID‑19: Expertise from WSU

2019 Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

 

WSU faculty and staff are working on multiple aspects of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID‑19) situation that has transformed society—from tracking the disease and modeling healthcare responses to dealing with the fall out of mass social distancing efforts, including economic impacts, food security, voting issues and the simple boredom of isolation. As Washington state’s land grant university, WSU has experts not only in the lab but on the ground helping individuals and communities respond to this unprecedented event in one of the most hard‑hit regions of the country.

The impacts of COVID‑19 may be felt for a long time, and research and response efforts are rapidly evolving. Please check back periodically and follow @WSUNews for more updates.

 


Studying coronaviruses

One of the first scientists to test cell entry of SARS-CoV-2, Michael Letko is expanding the database of the world’s coronaviruses through some unique experimental approaches developed in his lab. Through his work studying coronaviruses found in bats and other animals, he aims to help predict or even prevent the next pandemic.

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Tracking COVID‑19 and the public health response

WSU epidemiologists are tracking the determinants that allow COVID‑19 to spread with the goal of informing science-based policies to reduce transmission in healthcare systems, the community, schools and the workplace. The COVID‑19 crisis has already shown the need for long‑term changes to our healthcare system, employment policies and our social interactions.

Media contact:

  • Eric Lofgren, health systems epidemiologist, WSU Global Health, 509‑335‑4022, eric.lofgren@wsu.edu
  • Guy Palmer, emerging and endemic infectious diseases, WSU Global Health, 509‑432‑3385, gpalmer@wsu.edu

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Food supply, economics and transportation

COVID-19 is disrupting agriculture, meat processing and food markets. WSU has experts who are assessing the pandemic’s impacts on food supply, agricultural economics and the transport of food and other goods around the country.

Media contact:

  • Randy Fortenbery, agricultural economist, School of Economic Sciences, 509‑335‑7637, r.fortenbery@wsu.edu
  • Karina Gallardo, associate professor and Extension specialist, WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center, School of Economic Sciences, 253‑445‑4584, karina_gallardo@wsu.edu
  • Eric Jessup, director, Freight Policy Transportation Institute and research faculty, School of Economic Sciences, 509‑335‑4987, eric_jessup@wsu.edu

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Food safety and nutrition

WSU has leaders in consumer food safety, nutrition and food assistance who are working with Washington residents, growers and suppliers throughout the state. They provide practical advice on food preparation, low‑cost recipes, shopping, locally accessible ingredients, cleaning and sanitizing as well as staying healthy and physically active during the isolation needed to slow the impacts of COVID‑19.

Media contact:

  • Jen Moss, manager, region 3 SNAP‑Ed program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education), WSU Extension, 206‑948‑0505, jen.hey@wsu.edu
  • Stephanie Smith, food safety specialist, School of Food Science/WSU Extension, 509‑335‑0972, steph.smith@wsu.edu

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Testing animals for COVID‑19

The Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL) on the WSU campus in Pullman is conducting limited testing of animal samples for the SARS‑CoV‑2 virus, the causative agent for COVID‑19. While at this time there is no evidence that companion animals can spread COVID‑19, the goal for the testing is to collect evidence for further study of the role, if any, of infected animals.

Media contact:

  • Charlie Powell, public information officer, College of Veterinary Medicine, 509‑335‑7073, charlie_powell@wsu.edu

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Misinformation: battling the “infodemic”

Misinformation can be dangerous in a pandemic when it causes people to avoid sound health advice or promote corrosive conspiracy theories. WSU experts are studying the spread of COVID‑19 misinformation, ways to decrease so‑called “fake news,” and analyze and encourage corrective actions by individuals and organizations. Their work includes a way to detect coronavirus misinformation in 30 seconds and active participation in the collaborative Center for an Informed Public.

Media contact:

  • Porismita Borah, associate professor, Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, 509‑335‑1319, p.borah@wsu.edu
  • Michael Caulfield, director of blended and networked learning, WSU Vancouver, 509‑448‑1669, michael.caulfield@wsu.edu

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Consumer fraud

With the amount of uncertainty and fear during a pandemic, consumers are looking for solutions which makes them susceptible to companies selling fraudulent cures, treatments and tests for COVID‑19. WSU Marketing Professor Elizabeth Howlett is studying what makes people vulnerable to these bad offers to help inform public policy protecting consumers. Howlett, a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s risk advisory committee, can also speak about the FDA’s responses to fraud during the pandemic.

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Economic impact in Washington state and beyond

Economist Tim Nadreau is currently developing the methodology for assessing the impacts of COVID‑19 on national and subnational economies using input‑output models. As research faculty for the WSU IMPACT center, he regularly conducts impact and contribution analyses for Washington state industries.

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Remote voting during a pandemic

Social distancing measures have caused discussion about moving to full mail‑in or online voting for upcoming primaries and even for the November general election. The possibility raises a number of concerns over the security of the vote and voter privacy. WSU information systems expert Robert Crossler is currently studying the potential issues of this massive move to by mail or online voting.

Media contact:

  • Robert Crossler, information systems, Carson College of Business, 509‑335‑6415, rob.crossler@wsu.edu

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Boredom caused by social distancing

Boredom was already a growing problem for adolescents without a pandemic, but the boom in boredom caused by COVID‑19 is presenting new challenges for parents. Adolescent, prevention and leisure researcher Elizabeth Weybright has been tracking boredom before and during the pandemic and has insights for parents and others who want to help children through this difficult time.

Media contact:

  • Elizabeth Weybright, adolescence, prevention and leisure, Department of Human Development, 509‑335‑2130, elizabeth.weybright@wsu.edu

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