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Experts from UW–Madison available to discuss COVID-19

March 23, 2020

MADISON – Numerous experts from the University of Wisconsin–Madison are available to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and provide tips and information helping people navigate the challenges to their daily lives. More experts can be found in the UW–Madison Experts Database and in tipsheets from March 17 and March 12.

Tips for families

With 40 U.S. states now closing public schools to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, parents have had little or no time to plan for keeping their children at home 24/7. Suddenly, and in some cases overnight, families are figuring out how to live, learn and work — together and separately — all under one roof. Lorena Mancilla, director of WIDA Early Years at the UW–Madison School of Education, is an expert on family engagement and professional learning and can provide tips on how to create spaces and establish routines for learning and working effectively from home.

“It is important for parents to begin by asking themselves, ‘What can I do?’ to build on their knowledge and create a learning environment at home that works well for their family,” Mancilla says.

Tips can be found here.

Contact: Lorena Mancilla,, (630) 430-6206; Janet Kelly, Wisconsin Center for Education Research,, (608) 224-9130.

Sigan Hartley, an expert on neurodevelopmental conditions and family, can offer tips related to families of children with autism and developmental disabilities related to COVID-19.


Virus growth and spread

The global COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of effective research into developing vaccines and antiviral treatments. John Yin, a professor of chemical and biological engineering, is an expert on the growth and spread of viruses within host cells. In particular, Yin has researched the way viral infections create “viral junk” — virus-like particles with defective genomes that do not cause infections — that could actually be used to fight infections.

“Nature may have already created something that we can harness,” Yin says. “If the viral junk gets into a cell that is being hijacked by a normal viral particle, it can interfere with the normal infection. The viral junk contains defective interfering particles. Such defective interfering particles of a mouse coronavirus were studied in the 1980s, and that basic research could now be explored for therapeutic impact 40 years later.”


Coronavirus research

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.


Wildlife response to coronavirus quarantines

As COVID-19 cases mount, people around the world are going inside. David Drake, an urban wildlife specialist, is available to talk about how wildlife is responding to a world with a reduced human impact.


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.

“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.”

Contact:, Twitter: @brossardd. Brossard is fluent in English, French and Spanish.

Impacts on dairy markets and policy

Mark Stephenson is director of dairy policy analysis with the UW–Madison Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and UW–Madison Division of Extension. He 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.


Global economic impact

Menzie Chinn, a professor of public affairs and economics, can discuss macroeconomic and trade implications of COVID-19.