COVID-19: Science and Society

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Date: Thursday, September 23, 2021, 10AM – 4:30PM

This will be a virtual event.

The COVID pandemic has upended life in Washington, nationally, and globally. It has highlighted the importance of science in addressing societal challenges, and the many links between science and larger social issues, including social justice, political discourse, and economic activity. This year’s WSAS symposium will occur roughly 18 months into the pandemic. It will focus on what we have learned thus far, including biomedical aspects, broader social implications, and the many connections between them. We will pay particular attention to the implications for Washington—and on how scientific insight can help crystallize the lessons learned, inform the recovery process, and build resilience against future disasters.

Confirmed keynote speakers are Director of the WA Department of Commerce Dr. Lisa Brown, New York Times science journalist Apoorva Mandavilli.

The Symposium will examine the pandemic through three lenses: Immunity, Community, and Opportunity, each focused on a different area of pandemic impact. To understand the course of the pandemic, the consequences of the pandemic, and lessons future preparedness, we have to seek patterns and connections across multiple domains, and WSAS is particularly well suited to do this.

Dr. Lisa Brown
Dr. Lisa BrownDirector of the Washington State Department of Commerce
Apoorva Mandavilli
Apoorva MandavilliScience journalist, The New York Times

Immunity – This session will review biomedical and public health aspects of the pandemic. Key issues will include the virus itself (its origins, its capacity for mutation, its clinical effects, and questions of duration and robustness of immunity); medical countermeasures, especially vaccination; and public health countermeasures (testing, epidemiologic surveillance; modeling and forecasting; masks and social distancing). Common themes will include uncertainty and how it was handled; tradeoffs; and how the science was communicated.

Speakers on the Immunity Panel include:

Ruanne Barnabas
Ruanne BarnabasInfectious Disease Physician-Scientist, University of Washington
Helen Chu
Helen ChuPI of Seattle Flu Study
Umair Shah
Umair ShahWA Secretary of Health
Wesley Van Voorhis, moderator
Wesley Van Voorhis, moderatorInfectious Disease Specialist, University of Washington

Community – This session will focus on some of the social implications of the pandemic. One key issue will include the impact on families; job loss, workplace environments, and the disproportionate impact on women, children, and those with low socioeconomic status. Another issue that will be addressed is the disruption of K-12 and higher education and the identification and response to academic, emotional, and developmental impacts on current students. The last key issue discussed will be public discourse; the framing and discussion surrounding COVID-19 in traditional and social media, and the role of disinformation and science in public discourse. Common themes will include disparate effects on specific racial and socioeconomic communities and how to prepare for the changes to societal norms resulting from COVID-19.

Speakers on the Community Panel include:

Celestina Barbosa-Leiker
Celestina Barbosa-LeikerVice Chancellor for Research and Associate Professor, Washington State University
Stephan Blanford
Stephan BlanfordExecutive Director, Children's Alliance
Jevin West
Jevin WestDirector, Center for an Informed Public, University of Washington
Ann Bostrom, moderator
Ann Bostrom, moderatorProfessor, Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Washington

Opportunity – This session will focus on the far-reaching economic impacts on both the private sector and the public sector in our state. Key issues will include the exponential growth and downturn of specific industries and firms; the effects on small business; impacts on the state’s cities and towns, and policymaking to combat these effects. Common themes will include the difficulties with quantifying these impacts and how to address the largest and most enduring economic and infrastructural impacts of COVID-19.

Speakers on the Opportunity Panel include:

Phil Watson
Phil WatsonAssociate Professor of Economics, University of Idaho
Jill McCluskey
Jill McCluskeyRegents Professor of Economics, Washington State University
Paul Inghram
Paul InghramDirector of Growth Management, Puget Sound Regional Council
Ron Mittelhammer, moderator
Ron Mittelhammer, moderatorRegents Professor of Economics, Washington State University

The 14th Annual WSAS Symposium is Chaired by:

Howard Frumkin, DrPH, MPD, MD
Howard Frumkin, DrPH, MPD, MDProfessor Emeritus, Environmental and Occupational Health, University of Washington