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OSU expert panel to discuss history, impact of COVID-19 on June 4

By Molly Rosbach

Nine Oregon State University faculty members will share their expertise on the history and far-reaching impact of COVID-19 during a virtual panel discussion on Thursday, June 4.

The panelists will cover topics ranging from the origins of this particular virus and its transmission, to the broader societal impact of the pandemic and accompanying shutdowns. They will also discuss two OSU-led projects that are tackling the pandemic directly.

The goal of the event is to create a discussion that moves beyond the health-focused panels convened by mainstream TV news outlets, says OSU Faculty Senate President Dwaine Plaza

“We’re trying to look at the social, cultural, political, economic aspects, and even the idea of pandemics having a history to them, and what can we learn from old pandemics, what lessons we can take forward,” Dwaine says.

The speakers include: Bill Ripple, an ecologist who will discuss the 12,000-year history of pandemics; Chunhuei Chi, an epidemiologist who will provide an overview of the virus and its evolution; Christopher McKnight Nichols, a historian who will share the historical parallels between COVID-19 and the 1918 flu pandemic; Jennifer Alix-Garcia, an applied economist who will compare COVID’s economic impact to that of the 1918 pandemic; and Daniel López-Cevallos, ethnic studies professor who will discuss the pandemic’s disproportionate effect on low-income people of color.

Also on the panel are Dina Ribbink, a business professor at OSU-Cascades who will address the impact on global food supply chains; James Sterns, an applied economist who will look at how U.S. food supply workers have been affected; John Selker, an ecological engineer who will discuss OSU’s College of Engineering ventilator production project; and Jeff Bethel, an epidemiologist who will address OSU’s TRACE-COVID-19 community testing project.

Jeff Bethel is an associate professor at OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

The virtual event, “Under the Orange Light: COVID-19,” is structured as a series of “lightning talks” of seven to 10 minutes by each of the nine panelists. It will be moderated by Elena Passarello, an OSU writing professor. There will also be time for audience members to ask questions.

The free public event is scheduled from 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, June 4 and is presented by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee. To join, follow this Zoom link: