Beloit College Professor of Biology Rachel Bergstrom and Health and Society Professor Ron Watson invite those who want to learn about the science, psychology and history behind COVID-19 to join them at “Let’s Talk Coronavirus” on the Beloit College Facebook page every Wednesday from 4-5 p.m. Questions can be asked by commenting on Facebook.

The event typically attracts 30 to 50 viewers and accepts guest questions through Facebook comments.

Topics discussed range from the biology behind the virus to societal and economic impact to help the community gain insight on the past, present and future of the pandemic.

The topic for the Aug. 5 program was the biomedical ethics of resource allocation during a healthcare crisis, and this Wednesday’s topic will be the history of plagues and pandemics.

The two professors said they started the show last spring to find a way to disseminate information on the coronavirus while reconnecting with students who returned home due to the closure of campus.

Given the program’s success, it’s now being used as a learning tool in a new class for incoming students called “COVID—A pandemic is more than just a disease.”

Bergstrom said one of her favorite segments was a discussion on the economy with those from the college’s economics department.

“In order to recover economically we have to take care of the pandemic itself. We have to treat people, get healthy and get the spread of the disease under control. The economy is not going to recover until we are all safe,” Bergstrom said.

Despite the virus’s devastation, Bergstrom and Watson said it can be gotten under control if people are masked and are adhering to social distance between each other of at least 6 feet. Research has shown the virus is spread through respiratory droplets which can be contained with a combination of a mask and social distance guidelines.

“We’ve also covered in various episodes some of the cultural and political issues around mask wearing and the idea that this is becoming so politicized. Public health is not about politics,” Watson said.

The professors said seeking out conspiracy theories is a common feature in outbreaks as people reach and grasp for answers and an explanation, a normal psychological response. People were also resistant to masks in the 1918 influenza epidemic

Bergstrom said the mutation rate seems to be low for this particular virus which means good things for the ability to control it.

Watkins said there are promising leads on a vaccination. If a vaccine is proven effective, however, there will be a period of testing and the challenge of making it available to the worldwide market.

“It could be two to three years before production could get up to those levels,” Watkins said.

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