COVID-19: Origins, Spread, and Impacts

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

COVID-19 virus model is spherical in shape, and has small, spiky protrusions scattered across the surface. 3D print of a SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—virus particle. The virus surface (blue) is covered with spike proteins (red) that enable the virus to enter and infect human cells.
Courtesy of NIH
How does a virus that may have originated in bats jump to humans? How do we model the spread of infection? And how do racial inequities in health and healthcare affect how a pandemic unfolds?

This is part one of a two-part series. The second program is COVID-19: Vaccines, Testing, and the Science Behind the Cure.

Join us for an online discussion with Museum curator and evolutionary biologist Nancy Simmons, public health and policy expert Joshua Sharfstein, and social epidemiologist Lisa Cooper to explore the basic biology and social context of COVID-19 and what these mean for how we anticipate and mitigate the spread of the virus. Moderated by The New York Times science writer Apoorva Mandavilli.

To submit questions for our panelists in advance of the program, email [email protected].

Join the event on Wednesday, June 17, at noon EDT.  A Facebook account is not required. You can also watch here at the designated time.

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Get fast facts about the COVID-19 virus and learn about the Museum's related scientific research.

About the Speakers

Lisa Cooper

Dr. Lisa Cooper is the James F. Fries Professor of Medicine and a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Bloomberg School of Public Health. An international thought leader on health disparities, 2007 MacArthur Fellow, and member of the National Academy of Medicine, Dr. Cooper studies how race and socioeconomic factors shape patient care, and how patients and health systems, with communities, can help at-risk populations. A general internist and social epidemiologist, Dr. Cooper founded and directs the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity, where she and her colleagues implement evidence-based interventions and educational programs, partnering with health systems and communities, to inform practices and policies that advance health equity and improve population health. Dr. Cooper has served on advisory groups to the American Board of Internal Medicine; the National Quality Forum; the American Heart Association; the State of Maryland Health Care Quality and Costs Council; and the Advisory Committee to the Director of the NIH.

Joshua Sharfstein

Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein is the Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement for the Bloomberg School of Public Health. He oversees the Office of Public Health Practice and Training, the General Preventive Medicine Residency, and major practice activities, including collaboration with public health agencies. He also holds a faculty appointment in the Department of Health Policy and Management. Dr. Sharfstein is also the Director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, overseeing implementation of its key components. Previously, he served as the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Principal Deputy Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Commissioner of Health for Baltimore City, and health policy advisor for Congressman Henry A. Waxman.

Nancy Simmons

Dr. Nancy Simmons is Curator-in-Charge of the Department of Mammology at the American Museum of Natural History. Dr. Simmons specializes in the morphology and evolutionary biology of bats (Chiroptera). She works with both living and fossil species, and is interested in phylogenetic relationships, biogeography, evolution of ecological diversity, and community structure of bat faunas. A morphologist and field biologist by training, she works with data gained from museum specimens and high-resolution CT scans, combining these with DNA sequence data generated by collaborators to build and test phylogenetic and evolutionary hypotheses. Recently Dr. Simmons has moved into new research areas involving bat ecology, bat parasites and microbiomes, conservation biology, and disease dynamics including the connection between human-bat interactions and the origins of zoonotic disease.

Apoorva Mandavilli, moderator

Apoorva Mandavilli is a health and science reporter at The New York Times, where she has been writing extensively about the Coronavirus pandemic. She has also written for The Atlantic, The New Yorker online, Slate, Nature, Scientific American and others. She is the 2019 winner of the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Reporting. Her writing focuses on stories about complex science through the lives of people directly affected by it. She was the founding editor and editor-in-chief of the autism news site Spectrum from its launch in 2008 through May 2020. With her colleague Nidhi Subbaraman, I launched Culture Dish, a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing diversity in science journalism. For four years, she also served as an adjunct professor at New York University’s Science Health and Environmental Reporting Program.