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Health and Human Services

17th Annual International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference to be Held Virtually Sept. 23-25

This story has been updated to reflect the new partnership between the UToledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute and the Hue Jackson Foundation.

Survivors, researchers and advocates around the world are coming together virtually next week for the 17th Annual International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference at The University of Toledo.

The event has welcomed people from 49 states and 40 countries since it began in 2004 to advance collaborative research, advocacy and program development.

This year the conference will be held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Sept. 23-25 on Zoom and feature more than 100 speakers and 70 breakout sessions.

“We are in a unique position this year with hosting our conference virtually as we will be able to reach thousands of more individuals from all over the world who would not have had the opportunity to travel to attend our conference,” Dr. Celia Williamson, Distinguished University Professor and director of the UToledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, said. “Our top priority is to keep everyone safe while still fulfilling our mission of uniting the global community to learn, connect and collaborate to combat human trafficking and promote social justice.”

New this year, the UToledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute and the Hue Jackson Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Ohio, are partnering together to collaborate on the Stranger 2 Changers program, which will be free for students to participate in remotely through their schools.

The prevention program is part of Hue Jackson Foundation’s T.E.A.C.H. Initiative that provides a platform for students in schools to directly and indirectly interact with “Changers” from a variety of professional and non-professional platforms who can assist them to gain insight, knowledge, education and support while also giving them a sense of community as they navigate many of life’s challenges that may put them at greater risk for human trafficking.

“We are excited about our partnership with The University of Toledo,” said Hue Jackson, founder of the Hue Jackson Foundation. “Sharing our common goals to educate others in an effort to have a positive impact on society makes this a partnership that we hope inspires others across the country.”

In the past year, the UToledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute launched the F.R.E.E. Program, which provides scholarships and support for survivors of human trafficking from across the country as they pursue their education goals.

The F.R.E.E. Program, which has 55 human trafficking survivors currently enrolled, is the focus of one of the sessions. Hear success stories from women who earned certifications in yoga and phlebotomy, as well as a master’s degree in social work at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23.

“F.R.E.E. represents a survivor’s potential to become a thriver by achieving economic and psychological freedom and empowerment,” LaDonna Knabbs, coordinator of the F.R.E.E. Program in the UToledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, said. “It stands for Foundation, Readiness, Education and Employment. By achieving a degree or certification, survivors obtain livable employment.”

Other presentations include:

For a full schedule of presentations or to register, visit the conference website.

College of Graduate Studies Interim Dean Announced

Dr. Barry Scheuermann will lead the College of Graduate Studies while a search is conducted for the next dean.

Scheuermann’s appointment as interim dean was effective Aug. 3, following Dr. Amanda Bryant-Friedrich’s resignation.

Scheuermann

Scheuermann, who joined the UToledo faculty in 2003, is a professor of exercise science and recently served as the interim dean for the College of Health and Human Services while the search was conducted that brought Dr. Mark A. Merrick to UToledo to serve in the dean role.

“I sincerely appreciate Barry stepping in again to serve our UToledo community and provide some continuity of leadership among our academic deans in this period of transition,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “We wish Amanda well in her new opportunity at Wayne State University and thank her for her research and leadership contributions during her tenure at UToledo.”

Dialogue on Diversity to Address Impact of COVID-19 on Black and Brown Communities

The University of Toledo is continuing its Dialogues on Diversity series with a conversation on how the ongoing global pandemic is impacting underrepresented minorities.

The next virtual town hall in the series titled “The Impact of COVID-19 in Black and Brown Communities” will take place 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23, and can be accessed on WebEx using the access code 303401. The event password is DoD4:COVID.

The discussion on the disparate impact of COVID-19 in African American and Hispanic communities and strategies to keep safe will be moderated by Dr. Sammy Spann, UToledo associate vice president and dean of students.

Participants will be:

• Dr. Brian Dolsey, ProMedica cardiologist;

• Gwen Gregory, director of nursing and health services at the Toledo Lucas County Health Department;

• Louis Guardiola, associate lecturer and assistant dean for diversity and inclusion in the UToledo College of Health and Human Services;

• Gabriel Lomeli, assistant director of undergraduate admission at UToledo;

• Jason Wanamaker, fourth-year medical student at UToledo; and

• Dr. Celia Williamson, UToledo Distinguished University Professor and director of the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute.

This is the fourth in a series of recent virtual Dialogues on Diversity following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota that sparked protests against systemic racism across the country.

UToledo is a community that celebrates and respects people of all backgrounds and experiences. As an institution, we remain committed to building an inclusive environment free of racism, sexism, bigotry and other negative influences.

Virtual Presentation on Mindfulness Slated for July 22

The University of Toledo Alumni Association will host an introduction to mindfulness virtual presentation Wednesday, July 22.

Dr. Deborah Hendricks, director of the UToledo Pre-Health Advising Center, will lead the session that will explain the basics of mindfulness and walk through a practice exercise.

Hendricks

The session will start at noon on WebEx. The password for the presentation is alumni.

Or join by phone at 415.655.0002 and use the access code 160 819 7988.

The presentation will take about 30 minutes and will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

For more information, contact Samantha Marchal, assistant director of alumni engagement, at samantha.marchal@utoledo.edu or 419.530.4927.

Blackboard Recognizes UToledo Online Health Class for Excellence

The Public Health Nutrition class at The University of Toledo has received a Blackboard 2020 Exemplary Course Program Award.

Dr. Debra Boardley, professor in the School of Population Health in the College of Health and Human Services, teaches the course. Dr. Claire Stuve, director of curriculum development, testing services and research in University College, helped design the online class.

“I have found that most nutrition textbooks for graduate level are heavy in chemistry and biology,” Boardley said. “I wanted a course based on science, but was also approachable and useful to students without that background. I focused on the major public health nutrition issues: What is a healthy diet? How does nutrition affect chronic disease? We explored the challenge of obesity and weight management, and we learned about government programs, from food labeling to school lunch, that promote better nutrition in the U.S.”

Boardley wrote all the content for the graduate-level course.

“Then, as I say it, I made the content ‘pretty,’” Stuve said. “I turned what she wrote into videos, images and interactive multimedia using instructional design best practices. We worked together to ensure that the assessments aligned with the learning objectives and that they also were engaging to students.

“Content in any course can be presented in a way that is relatable to students’ real lives, so we made sure that was the case for this course,” said Stuve, who has won two Blackboard Catalyst Awards for creating innovative online classes.

The two worked on the class spring semester 2019. They used a third-party tool to create the modules, which contain flashcards, knowledge checks and avatar simulations. They found some YouTube videos and images that already existed, and they created many new ones. Then the material was embedded in Blackboard and linked with some of Blackboard’s tools.

“Class participation was high,” Boardley said. “I think students were enthusiastic because the topic areas were broad, and they had the opportunity to delve into the aspects that were the most interesting to them.”

“Although the course was designed to captivate students, I think it has the potential to change students’ lives because it is about nutrition, and as Debra says, ‘Nutrition impacts everyone because everyone has to eat,’” Stuve said.

The Blackboard Exemplary Course Program designation recognizes instructors and course designers whose classes demonstrate best practices in four major areas: course design; interaction and collaboration; assessment; and learner support. Courses were evaluated and selected through a peer-review process.

“I am so passionate about providing courses for students that not only intrigue them, but also help students to make positive changes in their lives; I want them to enjoy enriching their lives,” Stuve said. “This award is meaningful to me because it means that we succeeded in creating that type of course and contributed to the University’s online course excellence for which it is known.”

UToledo Physical Therapy Student Group Recognized by State Association

Students in The University of Toledo’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program have been recognized by the Ohio Physical Therapy Association for their advocacy and community service efforts.

The state association named UToledo’s Student Physical Therapy Organization winner of its 2019-20 Program of the Year Challenge.

Among the students’ service projects were fundraising for Food for Thought, working with athletes participating in the Special Olympics held in Bowling Green, and helping to provide healthcare to underserved populations through UToledo’s Community Cares Clinics.

The student organization also launched the Multicultural Leadership Council, which aims to promote a more culturally diverse physical therapy profession.

“Our Student PT Organization led by Drs. David Kujawa and Tori Smith is made up of students who are passionate and enthusiastic about our profession. I am so very proud of them.” said Dr. Cindy Bouillon, associate professor and director of UToledo’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. “They’ve participated in advocacy for our profession, as well as supporting our community through a mix of directly working with individuals who have disabilities or disease, and helping with fundraisers and other efforts for the greater good.”

The Program of the Year Challenge is an annual competition among Ohio’s 11 accredited physical therapy doctorate programs. Student groups are judged on the total number of volunteer hours, the number of students involved, and their collaboration with other programs.

Nearly 60 students are enrolled in the UToledo Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. Bouillon said all were involved in at least one of the projects. During the last year, the students have logged nearly 725 total volunteer hours.

“I am blown away by the amount of effort our program puts into attending events outside of school from volunteering in the community, attending conferences, lunch and learns, and more,” said McKenna Shives, a third-year student and the volunteer challenge representative for UToledo. “Everyone deserves the credit for this award. It was 100% a whole team effort.”

While many of the activities were completed before COIVD-19, the Student Physical Therapy Organization has continued meeting virtually to continue their work with the Multicultural Leadership Council and a shoe fundraiser.

Dean of College of Health and Human Services Announced

Dr. Mark A. Merrick has been selected to lead The University of Toledo College of Health and Human Services.

Merrick, who earned his baccalaureate and doctoral degrees at UToledo, has spent the last two decades at Ohio State University as director of the Athletic Training Division in OSU’s College of Medicine.

His appointment at UToledo begins July 1.

Mark Merrick

Merrick

“We’re excited to welcome Dr. Merrick back to The University of Toledo. He brings valuable leadership and experience to the College of Health and Human Services,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen the value of public health and allied health fields. Dr. Merrick will be a great asset to the college and the University.”

The majority of Merrick’s academic career has been spent at Ohio State, where he was the founding director of the university’s new Athletic Training Division. Merrick was instrumental in creating OSU’s bachelor of science in athletic training program and growing the program to national prominence.

Prior to Ohio State, Merrick held faculty positions at Xavier University and Indiana State University, where he was director of both the undergraduate and graduate athletic training programs.

“It’s great to return home and have a chance to give back to the place where my professional life began,” Merrick said. “The College of Health and Human Services has a strong and dedicated faculty who are working to make a difference for people in our community and world. Their passion and enthusiasm are evident in not only what they do and how they do it, but also in the students in whom they are so invested.”

Merrick earned a bachelor’s degree in athletic training from UToledo, a master’s degree in athletic training from Indiana State, and a doctorate in exercise physiology from UToledo.

Merrick is a certified and licensed athletic trainer, and a member of the National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine’s Global Forum on Innovation in Health Professional Education. Additionally, Merrick previously served as president of the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education.

“If you look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, there is a growing need for the kinds of professionals we prepare in the College of Health and Human Services,” Merrick said. “This is a college poised to grow to not only meet that need, but to also partner with our community, region and state in doing so. The University is focused on its role in Fueling Tomorrows, and, in the College of Health and Human Services, we plan to play a big part in that vision.”

Bjorkman also thanked Dr. Barry Scheuermann, interim dean of the College of Health and Human Services, for his leadership during the transition.

UToledo Unites in Solidarity to Identify Solutions to Address Systemic Racial Injustice

The University of Toledo’s campus community united in solidarity and support Thursday evening for those affected by the killing of George Floyd.

The first Dialogues on Diversity Virtual Town Hall brought together University leadership, faculty, staff, students and the public to reflect on their experiences, identify solutions to address systemic racial injustice, and highlight campus and community resources to aid in coping with trauma.

“I am so pleased with the dynamic, meaningful ideas that resulted from our successful discussion,” Dr. Willie McKether, vice president for diversity and inclusion, said. “I appreciate the passion and motivation of our Rocket family and the support we have for each other. This is the beginning of a series of respectful, painful conversations in the coming weeks, including when the semester starts.”

More than 350 people attended the event that featured panelists:

• UToledo Police Chief Jeff Newton;

• Benjamin Davis, UToledo law professor;

• Dr. Monita Mungo, UToledo assistant professor of sociology;

• Dr. La Tasha Sullivan, director of the University Counseling Center;

• Nyah Kidd, president of the Black Student Union;

• Darren Gordon, former president of the UToledo chapter of the Student National Medical Association;

• Giselle Zelaya, president of the Latino Student Union;

• Nick Thompson, president of Student Government;

• Anjali Phadke, vice president of Student Government; and

• Asher Sovereign with the Sexuality and Gender Alliance.

Members of the campus community shared personal experiences and the great sadness and fear sparked by watching the video of George Floyd’s death.

“As a teen growing up in Mississippi, my parents would consistently remind my siblings and me when we would leave the house for fun or to hang out with our family and friends, ‘Remember we love you, but you must come home at night,’” Dr. Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, vice president for student affairs and vice provost, said. “As I got older and started to experience racism, discrimination and prejudice firsthand, I began to understand the meaning of those powerful 11 words. In essence, my parents were saying, ‘Always obey the law and follow their instructions and rules. Do as you are told. Don’t argue.’ These past two weeks have been the most difficult weeks in my life. When will this behavior stop? Am I next? I’m at a loss for words.”

“As I reflect on the events of the last few weeks and our community discussion last evening, I am inspired by our students, faculty, staff and alumni for their commitment, perseverance and passion to change the world,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said. “Yet I grieve the recent senseless deaths of George Floyd and Breona Taylor. As a human and a mother, I cannot fathom the pain and anguish that their families are experiencing. Racial injustice, police brutality and disparate treatment have painfully existed for longer than all of us have been alive. As a campus community, we have made great strides to create a more open and inclusive community, working together to develop and implement UToledo’s first diversity plan. And yet it isn’t nearly enough. Now is the time to end this in our community, our country and in the world. I challenge each and every one of you to ‘be the change you want to see in the world.’”

Panelists brought forward ideas and solutions to elevate our community, such as training students in nonviolence and conflict transformation to teach them how to respond to what they will face while protesting by utilizing faculty expertise in the Peace Education Program, which is part of the Judith Herb College of Education.

“I am proud of the strength and courage of our students as they engage in deep, thoughtful, critical discussions and examine the ways we can change our society for the better,” Dr. Karen Bjorkman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said. “It is our solemn responsibility and our honor to equip them with the knowledge and tools they need to lead that change into the future.”

Leaders from across the University have expressed their commitment to embracing the critical role higher education can and must play in facilitating open and honest discussions that empower us as a community and a nation to translate our ideals into actionable change.

• Dr. Heidi Appel, dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College: “We believe in the power of higher education to address major societal problems like this injustice. We hope that by challenging our students to think deeply about the world they live in and to take actions that support greater diversity, equity and inclusion, we are helping to build a better world.”

• Dr. Anne Balazs, dean of the College of Business and Innovation: “It is with great sadness that we bear witness to the events of the past week, with the untimely and violent death of George Floyd and the continuing expressions of hatred and prejudice. As members of a scholarly community, one which is dedicated to education and improving our shared quality of life, it is unacceptable to idly stand by and allow racism in all its many forms to persist.”

• Benjamin Barros, dean of the College of Law: “The past week’s events have shown the realities of the work we must do as a nation to ensure that our justice system protects and serves all people. Our mission at the law school is intrinsically tied to the mission of equal access to justice. We are uniquely positioned to empower future generations of lawyers to evaluate our country’s legal systems, engage in thoughtful discourse, and address inequality. The change we need to see as a nation begins with each of us doing our part to create a diverse, supportive and inclusive community.”

• Dr. Amanda Bryant-Friedrich, dean of the College of Graduate Studies: “Life is heavy for all of us today. It has been that way for some of us for many, many days. First, a global pandemic and now violence and division dominate our news cycle. I am sad, I am afraid, and I am hopeful. I am sorry for your loss, I am sorry for your fear, I am sorry for your anger, I am sorry for the lack of justice, I am sorry there is no cure, and I am sorry that I am sorry. You are valued, and we hear you. We are here for you today and every day.”

• Beau Case, dean of University Libraries: “The University Libraries believe that diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility are not merely ideals — they are core values which we display daily in our work. Our campus doors are open to all. Our services are free of bias. We offer safe spaces for exploration, discovery, lifelong learning and wonder.”

• Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences: “From all appearances, he was neither protected with courage nor served with compassion. Now ‘I can’t breathe’ has become the rallying cry of protests locally and nationally, peaceful and violent. Lurking beneath this are the concerns and outrage of ongoing racism, systemic racism, institutional violence and failed inclusion. If we want to improve the world, we better start close to home with our region, our community and, most importantly, with ourselves.”

• Charlene Gilbert, dean of the College of Arts and Letters: “The peaceful protests occurring in many of our major cities and towns not only reflect the anger over the death of Mr. Floyd, but also represent years of frustration with the injustice and unequal treatment experienced by African Americans and people of color in communities all across this nation. The College of Arts and Letters is a community where we value and celebrate not only critical inquiry, but also thoughtful action. We want to thank every student, faculty member, staff person and alumnus who has participated in some form of action to add your voice to the many calling for justice.”

• Dr. John Laux, associate dean of student affairs in the College of Health and Human Services: “George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police officers is the latest example of violence perpetrated against African Americans. We honor George Floyd’s life, and those who were murdered or assaulted previously by focusing our attention on our society’s history of and ongoing racism and systemic social injustice by working collectively to be agents of change. The College of Health and Human Services trains students for careers in social service, health sciences and criminal justice, including police civil service. We recognize that we are a product of our society. The status quo is not acceptable. And, as such, we have work to do to root out and put an end to individual and institutional racism. We are committed to do the work necessary to be a part of the solution.”

• Dr. Linda Lewandowski, dean of the College of Nursing: “We know that long-term discrimination has negative effects on physical and mental health and that violence, discrimination and racism directly impact social determinants of health and result in health disparities and inequities. Given the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our African-American communities, the health impact of continued disparities is even more profound. As healthcare professionals, we are in a unique position to address the health and the social justice issues that are so pressing in our nation at this time. Change begins with each one of us and is reflected in how we treat each other on a daily basis.”

• Mike O’Brien, vice president and athletic director: “Last night’s dialogue was excellent as it was very informative and insightful. We must stand together and be committed for equity, diversity and the fight against racial injustice.”

• Dr. John Plenefisch, interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics: “The College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics must translate the powerful words and feelings expressed by those protesting systemic racism into sustained action that makes a concrete difference in our community, including through our work and actions here in our college. As scientists and mathematicians, we can take action against racism, bigotry and prejudice in many ways, including choosing to focus our research on issues that disproportionally impact marginalized communities or groups, and deliberately supporting the careers and training of people of color as future generations of scientists and mathematicians.”

• Dr. Gary Pollack, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences: “Our obligation to our fellow human beings is not diminished by the color of their skin, or by how they express their spirituality, or by their country of origin, or by whom they happen to love. Those characteristics, which some voices emphasize in an attempt to divide us, are infinitesimal compared to the many things that make us what we are: the human family.”

• Dr. Mike Toole, dean of the College of Engineering: “I found each of the speakers and the entire event to be compelling and inspiring. It is critical that we have administrators, faculty and student leaders on campus who are speaking out to support the protests against racial injustice in our nation. Eliminating institutionalized racism, white privilege and racist violence will take many voices and much work.”

• Dr. Raymond Witte, dean of the Judith Herb College of Education: “We all want to feel safe when in the presence of the police. This will require time and honest dialogue because many, including myself now, don’t feel safe. I am now faced with the reality that police may not act impartially and without bias. To be honest, most of us are biased in some way. However, the decisions police make can have life and death outcomes.”

The next Dialogues on Diversity Virtual Roundtable is scheduled Thursday, June 25, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Access and panelist participation information will be released prior to the event, which is titled “The Death of George Floyd: Race and Anti-Blackness in America.”

Three Rockets Named MAC Distinguished Scholar Athletes

Three University of Toledo student-athletes were named Distinguished Scholar Athletes from the 2019-20 winter season by the Mid-American Conference. The awards were received following strong contributions in the field of competition and exemplary work in the classroom.

Women’s indoor track and field athletes Rayna Horner and Petronela Simuic were named Distinguished Scholar Athletes, as was Izzy Jones from the women’s swimming and diving team.

Horner is a sophomore majoring in pre-social work; she has a 3.774 grade-point average. Simuic is a senior majoring in health promotion and education; she has a 3.695 GPA. And Jones, a redshirt junior, is studying kinesiology and has a 3.734 GPA.

The award is given to student-athletes who have excelled in athletics and academics. Following each season, any student-athlete with a 3.20 GPA and participation in at least 50 percent of the contests is automatically named to the Academic All-MAC Team for each sport. First-year students and junior college transfers in their first year of residence are not eligible for the award.

New for this 2019-20 academic season, the selection for the Distinguished Scholar Athlete included all student-athletes that were recognized as All-MAC selections and Academic All-MAC selections from their respective sport, along with maintaining a 3.50 GPA and above. Previously, a voting process among the MAC Faculty Athletic Representatives determined the selection of the Distinguished Scholar Athletes. MAC membership voted for the change in recognizing the Distinguished Scholar Athletes during the conference spring meetings in June 2019.

UToledo Experts Share What You Need to Know About COVID-19 as States Reopen

As governments begin easing restrictions that were put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, public health and infectious disease experts from The University of Toledo are offering insight into what you need to know about the novel coronavirus, how to protect yourself, and how to protect others.

The virus is still here. We have to act accordingly.

Fink

While the number of newly confirmed cases in many states — including Ohio and Michigan — appears to have peaked, the virus hasn’t gone away or become less dangerous.

“We all yearn for the way life was in the pre-pandemic days, and we are going to get there, but this is going to be the situation for a while,” said Dr. Brian Fink, an epidemiologist and professor of public health. “We have to respect that and continue taking the same precautions.”

Though it’s tempting to see businesses reopening and leisure activities resuming and think the threat of the virus is behind us, Fink said the reality is the novel coronavirus is still spreading across the United States.

Take steps to protect your own health and the health of others.

“People do still need to be careful,” said Dr. Jennifer Hanrahan, an associate professor of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at The University of Toledo Medical Center. “One of the worst things that people could do at this point is go out and resume their normal behavior. We would certainly have a resurgence.”

Diligent handwashing, avoiding touching your nose and mouth, staying home if you’re sick, and social distancing should all continue, UToledo experts said. Individuals who are older or high-risk because of underlying health conditions should be more careful.

Fink said there are simple things you can do. For example, when shopping, avoid picking up an item and then putting it back, and keep your distance from other shoppers. It’s also important, he said, to make decisions based not only on your own risk, but the risk of those around you.

“It’s difficult. We all want to see our friends and family,” he said. “We just have to be patient. If we’re patient and we follow the guidelines as best as possible, we’ll be back to normal sooner rather than later, even though that’s going to take time,” Fink said.

Wearing a cloth face covering does make a difference. Wear one if you’re around others.

Hanrahan

The shifting guidance from public health officials on mask usage has caused confusion and pushback, but Hanrahan encourages people to wear a simple mask or cloth face covering when around other people.

“Two things are happening. The person wearing the mask is reducing the amount of stuff they’re putting in the environment, and they’re also reducing the amount they breath in,” she said. “It’s not going to prevent everything, but there is some protection.”

Hanrahan said face coverings, combined with continued social distancing and new measures being implemented by businesses, such as clear barriers at cash registers and limits on the number of people allowed in one place at one time, will reduce the overall risk.

Fink said its important people recognize things such as mask recommendations or requirements are being done for the benefit of everyone, not to target specific individuals.

“I always tell my students there are going to be people in the population who aren’t going to be happy. We’re seeing that,” Fink said. “But we’re putting these guidelines in place for the health and well-being of everyone.”

Individuals with pre-existing health conditions are most vulnerable, but no one is immune to the illness.

As physicians and researchers learn more about COVID-19, there are also some troubling discoveries. Along with older Americans and those who have diabetes, compromised immune systems and chronic lung diseases, Hanrahan said doctors are finding people with morbid obesity and high blood pressure are at high risk of complications.

“Hypertension alone would not necessarily be thought of as a potential problem with a viral infection, but it actually is,” she said. “For people who have those conditions or other underlying medical conditions, they really need to think about whether it makes sense for them to go to the grocery store or be around a lot of other people.”

Additionally, there are an increasing number of reports of children developing a severe inflammatory response linked to COVID-19, even when they weren’t previously sick.

“COVID-19 is not just affecting people who are at high risk for complications,” Hanrahan said.

Scientists and physicians have learned a lot about the virus, but we’re still a long way from having routine treatments or a vaccine.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was completely unknown before it began spreading among people early this year. Since then, there has been a tremendous amount of research both in how the virus spreads and potential ways to treat or prevent it.

“We have learned a lot about this virus,” Hanrahan said. “Most of the spread really is by droplets, typically within a few feet of the person. The social isolation part, keeping six feet of distance, that does actually make a difference.”

Doctors also have a better idea how to manage the virus, and hundreds of drugs are being examined to potentially fight COVID-19 and its effects. Some, including the antiviral drug remdesivir, are showing promising early results. Progress also is being made in vaccine development.

However, while there is reason for hope, Hanrahan said it will take time to get any of these therapeutics in the quantities needed. Gilead Sciences, which makes remdesivir, anticipates making a million courses of that drug globally by December.

“That’s not going to be enough to treat people if we get a really huge outbreak. This is unfortunately going to be with us for a while,” Hanrahan said. “That’s why it’s important everyone continue to treat this pandemic seriously.”