UC hosts expert symposium on COVID-19, now and then
New book inspires conversation, analysis of Ohio pandemic response
The University of Cincinnati will host a symposium on the state’s response to the pandemic titled "Ohio Under COVID: Lessons from America’s Heartland in Crisis." The event will feature Dr. Amy Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health, and authors and editors of the new book of the same title.
The symposium is free and open to the public, and will be held at 3 p.m. Sept. 22 in the Annie Laws Room, 407 Teachers College, 2601 University Circle, on UC’s Uptown campus.
Panel discussions will cover the impact of COVID-19 on marginalized communities, ableism, food insecurity, prisons, access to health care and the need for more Black doctors. It will conclude with reflections from Dr. Acton, who served under Governor Mike DeWine during the height of the crisis.
A timely look at Covid
As the federal government officially lifted its public health emergency last May, the pandemic’s chapter seemed to have closed, or at least subsided.
But social and financial fallout continues. With federal subsidies discontinued, Ohio food banks report a surge in demand, according to ABC news. And with federal pandemic-related eviction bans lifted, rates are climbing, with Princeton University’s Eviction Lab finding filings have climbed nationally 50% or more compared to pre-pandemic rates.
“For some people, the end of the public health emergency marks the end of protections that were keeping them afloat, such as funding streams to states to bolster home care, or provisions that kept people from getting kicked off Medicaid,” says Vanessa Carbonell, associate professor of philosophy and co-editor of the book.
In March, continuous Medicaid enrollment in Ohio expired, resulting in a predicted 280,00 Ohioans losing health care coverage. And this month, the Food and Drug Administration released the latest Covid vaccines, as cases begin to rise again.
“So even while the virus itself is having less impact on people’s lives, there are scars left behind and ongoing challenges,” says associate professor of history Katherine Sorrels, co-editor of the collection.
The book that inspired the symposium
Published in May by the University of Michigan Press, "Ohio Under COVID" is a curated compilation of essays, observations and research, revealing state governmental action—and reaction—to the crisis in which 18,000 Ohioans died in the first year, and shutdowns gripped the state.
The text provides a retrospective of the state’s reaction to the crisis, and serves as a platform for considering the strengths and weaknesses of the response.
“The first-person narratives capture the pandemic’s impact on individuals grappling with a wide range of challenges,” says Sorrels.
“The research articles explain how state-wide predicaments contributed to the problems faced by individuals. And the introduction shows how these challenges influenced Ohio’s early response to the pandemic, while also foreshadowing the tensions that would come to dominate the national response to Covid,” she says.
The book is an interdisciplinary effort by the college, with editors representing six academic departments: history, philosophy, sociology, English, Africana Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. The team of editors worked together through a research group sponsored by UC’s Taft Research Center.
With contributions from more than 40 scholars and practitioners, including UC students and faculty, and several first-person reflections, the book is freely available on an open-access platform here.
“The book really illustrates the importance of attending carefully to the experiences and perspectives of individuals,” says Carbonell.
“Readers will be moved by the first-person narratives from people who experienced the pandemic working in a school or intensive care unit, or who were living in a correctional institution at the time or whose loved ones were in the hospital suffering from the virus.
“There’s no substitute for seeing how things play out in real people’s lives, and for hearing them describe their experiences in their own words.”
Featured image at top: Hand holding Covid vaccine. Credit/Spencer Davis for Unsplash.