UofSC faculty experts on coronavirus

COVID-19 is affecting many aspects of everyday life from health care and the workplace to the economy and education. The University of South Carolina’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs has compiled a list of faculty experts who can discuss topics relevant to the coronavirus pandemic.

To arrange interviews, contact the staff member listed with each entry below. Direct questions to Carol Ward, ward8@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-7549.

COVID-19's impact on minorities, vulnerable populations 

Whitney Zahnd, research assistant professor for the Rural and Minority Health Research Center, can offer insight into factors associated with racial disparities in COVID-19 diagnosis and mortality, screening and treatment access for rural, black and low-income communities, as well as the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on treatment of other health concerns.
News contact: Erin Bluvas, bluvase@mailbox.sc.edu

Kevin Bennett, School of Medicine Columbia, is available to speak about how the COVID-19 outbreak could impact rural health care systems and rural populations.
News contact: Alyssa Yancey, alyssa.yancey@uscmed.sc.edu, 407-312-2636.

Jason Cummings, sociology professor, studies how historical racism and white privilege have created race and gender disparities in health and well-being today. Much of his research focuses on how racial and gender differences in health outcomes have changed since the 1970s and how economic and other factors have driven those changes.
News contact: Bryan Gentry, brgentry@sc.edu

Employment and economic impact

Law professor Joseph Seiner can address the employment implications and employment-related issues of the coronavirus pandemic as many businesses and public institutions are curtailing hours, operating differently or shutting down because of the coronavirus pandemic. He can discuss topics including whether employees can be terminated for not showing up for work, employee access and rights to sick leave, and potential employer liability for putting workers in harm’s way.
News contact: Rob Schaller, schallew@law.sc.edu, 803-777-5611.

Faculty with the Darla Moore School of Business can discuss the economic impact of coronavirus: Joey Von Nessen (South Carolina and general economic impact); Doug Woodward (general economic impact); and Bill Hauk (trade with Europe).
News contact: Leigh-Anne Lawrence, leigh-anne.lawrence@moore.sc.edu, 803-777-4306 (o), 240-217-5767 (c).

Orgul Ozturk, Department of Economics, can speak about the impact on childhood nutrition related to school closings and uncertainty about free or reduced breakfast and lunch as well as how changes as a result of pandemic precautions might affect SNAP or WIC recipients.
News contact: Leigh-Anne Lawrence, leigh-anne.lawrence@moore.sc.edu, 803-777-4306 (o), 240-217-5767 (c).

Tourism, entertainment and sports

Professors Thomas Regan and Nick Watanabe are experts on the economic side of sports and entertainment and are available to offer expertise on the impact of cancellations of major events and the decision making process leading to those cancellations.
News contact: Allen Wallace, awallace@sc.edu, 706-267-0959.

Professor Rich Harrill is one of the world’s leading experts on tourism and can discuss the impact of the disease on that industry, including restaurants and hotels.
News contact: Allen Wallace, awallace@sc.edu, 706-267-0959.

Professor Scott Smith is a widely known expert on the theme park industry and can discuss the closings of Disney and other parks.
News contact: Allen Wallace, awallace@sc.edu, 706-267-0959.


Todd Shaw and Bob Oldendick, political science professors, can speak about how coronavirus and social distancing measures could impact ongoing presidential campaigns and the 2020 election. They also can speak about how a crisis like the coronavirus can impact the Trump presidency, with past crises and presidents providing examples.
News contact: Bryan Gentry, brgentry@sc.edu.

Education and libraries

Stacy Winchester and Amie Freeman, university librarians, can discuss the value of libraries’ online resources and how parents can use them to support their children’s online learning.
News contact: Nicole Carrico, carrico@sc.edu, 803-777-2115.

Valerie Byrd-Fort, an instructor in the School of Library and Information Science, can discuss free resources available for students and teachers learning from home. She also can offer ideas for activities parents and children can do while schools are closed and emphasize the importance of continuing to read during this time. A well-known figure in South Carolina’s school librarian community and program coordinator for the university’s childhood literacy initiative, Cocky’s Reading Express, Fort also can discuss a resource guide, which was created by the S.C. Center for Community Literacy and is updated frequently with resources for learning at home, games, mental health and virtual story time. 
News contact: Rebekah Friedman, rebekahb@mailbox.sc.edu. 

Nicole Cooke, Augusta Baker Chair in Childhood Literacy in the School of Library and Information Science, can discuss the spread of misinformation and disinformation relating to the coronavirus pandemic. She can offer tips for how news consumers can identify false information and explain the dangers false or misleading news stories pose. As an expert in diversity in librarianship, Cooke can also speak on the impact that library closings could have on those who need them most.
News contact: Rebekah Friedman at rebekahb@mailbox.sc.edu.

Michael M. Grant, coordinator of Educational Technology and president of the Association of Educational Communications and Technology, is available to speak to the transition to online courses and remote teaching, successes and challenges for students when learning at a distance, best practices for teaching online, and why the courses/instruction being developed in this crisis may not represent the best online learning has to offer. Grant can speak to both K-12 and higher education contexts, as well as how teachers, faculty members, support staff, institutions, schools and districts are responding to the unexpected crisis and emergency contingency plans.
News contact: Carol Ward, ward8@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-7549.

Health, medicine and coping

Jaeseung Kim, College of Social Work, researches how workplace flexibility, such as working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, shapes family life and well-being. He can give strategies to help those working from home to create work/home boundaries. He can also speak about mental strategies to help with productivity and family life while working from home. 
News contact: Chris Woodley, cwoodley@mailbox.sc.edu

Sayward Harrison, psychology professor, can speak about how lessons learned from the HIV epidemic can help individuals and families be resilient in the face of COVID-19, quarantines and social distancing.

Mark Weist, psychology professor, can offer suggestions for families to help reduce anxiety for children during this period of school closures and social distancing, including the importance of sticking to normal routines, monitoring social media use, talking about the virus, practicing good hygiene and adjusting expectations. 
News contact: Bryan Gentry, brgentry@sc.edu.

Kevin Bennett, School of Medicine Columbia, is available to speak about how the COVID-19 outbreak could impact rural health care systems and rural populations.
News contact: Alyssa Yancey, alyssa.yancey@uscmed.sc.edu, 407-312-2636.

Michael Shtutman, a professor in the College of Pharmacy, can explain testing technologies that are used for the detection of viruses such as COVID-19.
News contact: Terry Dixon, dixont@cop.sc.edu.

Jill Michels, director of Palmetto Poison Center, can provide information on household safety during quarantine and isolation. Michel can discuss proper storage of chemicals and cleaners, how to keep medications out of the reach of children, and treatment advice for what to do in case of accidental poisoning.
News contact: Terry Dixon, dixont@cop.sc.edu.

Julie Justo, College of Pharmacy, is an expert on viral infections. Her practice site is in infectious diseases and antimicrobial stewardship at Prisma Health Richland Hospital, developing experimental treatment algorithms for the novel coronavirus and procuring needed medications to manage patients with COVID-19 in the community.
News contact: Terry Dixon, dixont@cop.sc.edu.

Brandon Bookstaver, College of Pharmacy, specializes in studying infectious diseases. He is involved in developing local treatment strategies at Prisma Health Midlands and is also part of the team responsible for procurement of medications to treat COVID-19. 
News contact: Terry Dixon, dixont@cop.sc.edu.

Swann Adams, College of Nursing, specializes in studying cancer survivorship and epidemiology. She can speak about how COVID-19 could impact cancer survivors and guidelines that can be followed to protect themselves. She can also speak about how emotional well-being is particularly important for cancer survivors and how to manage stress and practice self-care.
News contact: Jan Johnson, jnjohnso@mailbox.sc.edu.

History, sociology and literature

Nukhet Varlik, a history professor whose research focuses on the history of plague and infectious disease, can speak about how the coronavirus outbreak compares with numerous other outbreaks in history. Topics include how the societal response is both similar and different, racism in outbreaks, how the medical community's advice for limiting spread has stayed much the same, and how the ability to respond quickly has increased today.
News contact: Bryan Gentry, brgentry@sc.edu.

Matthew Brashears, sociology professor, can speak about how in-person and online social networks spread contagion, information and misinformation in epidemic situations.
News contact: Bryan Gentry, brgentry@sc.edu.

Hunter Gardner, professor of classics, specializes in plague literature. She can speak about how the current discourse about coronavirus differs from what writers and poets have written for hundreds of years, ranging from early Roman history to today.
News contact: Bryan Gentry, brgentry@sc.edu.

Social media listening 

What are South Carolinians saying during the coronavirus pandemic? The university’s Social Media Insights Lab uses artificial intelligence-powered software to study online conversations around a variety of topics. Kaitlyn Park, Insights Lab manager, can provide analytics reports on coronavirus-related issues, including public sentiment, recurring topics of conversation, social media influencers and more.
News contact: Rebekah Friedman, rebekahb@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-576-7270