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UW-Madison COVID-19 stories and experts: Thursday Mourning, spread data, new vaccines

February 3, 2021 By Veronica Rueckert

MADISON – The following UW–Madison stories and experts are available on current topics surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. See more stories here. 

“Thursday Mourning” remembrance ritual honors COVID-19 victims

“I wanted to feel a connection to those who had died, to acknowledge their lives.”

That’s Omar Poler, describing the intent of his Thursday Mourning remembrance ritual. Poler is indigenous education coordinator for the Office of the Provost and the School of Education at UW–Madison. Every Thursday morning 10, he stops whatever he’s doing and spends 10 minutes remembering – and honoring – the lives lost to COVID-19. The practice has spread to other parts of campus and beyond. Read the full story here.

Contact: Veronica Rueckert;

Population density and virus strains will affect how regions can resume normal life

Tony Ives at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Claudio Bozzuto of the independent data research company Wildlife Analysis GmbH studied the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. at the start of the pandemic, before people changed their behavior to avoid the disease. This let them uncover factors that may affect the transmission of COVID-19 when masking and physical distancing start to wane and behavior once again resembles the pre-pandemic normal.

Parsing out county-by-county data from 39 states through May 23, 2020, Ives and Bozzuto found that the higher a county’s population density, the more readily SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, spread from person to person. This county-level spread is ultimately quantified in the basic reproduction number of the virus, a measure of the average number of people an infected person goes on to infect. Read the full story here.


Badger Talks: The Future of Travel

The start of mass vaccination for OVID-19 has raised the exciting prospect of being able to travel again in the near future.

In this Badger Talks video, Laura Albert, professor of industrial and systems engineering, talks about what we can expect as we return.

Laura Albert is an expert on aviation security and risk management in the School of Engineering.


How to overcome vaccine fears

Dietram Scheufele, a science communication expert, is available to discuss how public health communication tactics can help to overcome fear of the COVID-19 vaccine. Scheufele suggests that Americans could get “I got vaccinated” stickers, in an echo of the “I voted” sticker campaign.


New vaccine approval

Jonathan Temte, a professor of family medicine and an expert on epidemiology and vaccines, is available to discuss the significance of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Temte calls the one-shot vaccine a potential “game changer.”

Contact: Emily Kumlien,

In addition to these, more experts can be found on the UW–Madison Experts page.