UNLV Newsmakers 2020: Combatting COVID-19 | News Center

The year started off alright, but the mood shifted quickly in late January when news of an emerging new strain of the coronavirus started gaining steam in Las Vegas. 

What was it? Was it dangerous? What should we do about it? How do we keep ourselves and our loved ones safe? For answers to these and myriad other questions, reporters in Nevada and around the nation and world turned to UNLV’s experts. 

For epidemiologist Brian Labus, a professor in the School of Public Health and a member of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s medical advisory team, one local media interview on this mysterious new public health threat turned into five, then 50. By the end of 2020 – and well over 500 media interviews later – Prof. Labus has become a household name in Southern Nevada and a go-to resource worldwide on the ins and outs of this evasive pandemic (he also has his own solo edition of 2020 Newsmakers). 

Labus is one of the dozens of UNLV faculty, staff, and students who have worked tirelessly during a very tiring 2020 to find ways to help. From front-line health workers to scientists, social workers, teachers and mental health professionals, the people of UNLV rose to this unprecedented challenge through research and by donating – and at times creating – needed supplies for safety and testing. 

They’ve spurred innovations in hospitality and design, offered inspiration through the arts, shared resources for teachers, families, and policymakers, and they’ve helped us all make sense of a pandemic that has more twists and turns than the New York-New York roller coaster. 

In a year where UNLV experts contributed to well over 1,000 news stories on COVID-19, it’s impossible to include them all in one roundup. A few media highlights follow, but additional COVID-related news stories – and more than 40 in-depth interviews with UNLV experts – can be found on UNLV’s News Center. 

Health and Medicine

By early March, COVID-19 had spread to 78 countries – including the U.S. – and it was well on its way to becoming a global pandemic. From the start, doctors and personnel from the School of Medicine were there to provide care; nurses, dentists, scientists, and professionals throughout the health sciences were also thrust into the spotlight and shone in ways that continue to make the university proud. The School of Public Health took center stage, offering research expertise, educational resources, and help with contact tracing efforts that contribute to mitigating the spread.

  • The School of Public Health received a $3.4 million state grant to expand its student-led contact tracing program, boosting student contact tracers from 60 to 200. The program’s student and faculty leaders — including Dean Shawn Gerstenberger and Professor Brian Labus — shared the news with the Las Vegas Review-Journal (twice), KLAS-TV: 8 News Now, KTNV-TV: ABC 13 (twice), and Associated Press.
  • School of Medicine staff and faculty physicians have answered the call throughout the pandemic with testing (more on that below), front-line care, and by sharing their knowledge with the community. 
  • An early health tip as the pandemic took hold was this – stop touching your face! It’s not so easy, and psychology professor Stephen Benning spoke about it with The Conversation US, KSNV-TV: News 3, Good Magazine, and Fox 5 Vegas
  • As news worsened into the spring, The PRACTICE Mental Health Clinic at UNLV quickly transitioned to telehealth services to ensure that it would remain a resource for the Las Vegas community even if its physical facility needed to close. The shift to telemental health was covered by KSNV-TV: News 3,  Las Vegas Sun, and KLAS-TV: 8 News Now.
  • The UNLV School of Dental Medicine reopened its clinics in late June to existing patients. During the early days of the pandemic, dentists screened and treated more than 1,100 patients with urgent needs: KSNV-TV: News 3, Las Vegas Review-Journal, and KTNV-TV: ABC 13.

Testing and Vaccines

UNLV’s School of Medicine curbside COVID-19 testing site – one of the first in Nevada – administered more than 18,000 tests from March through July. Additionally, more than 130,000 tests have been performed to-date on the Maryland Parkway campus through a partnership with Clark County and UMC. And as the year progressed and the promise of a vaccine became a reality, faculty from the Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine offered context and are preparing to enter this crucial stage of the pandemic. 

Research and Innovation

UNLV researchers are rising to the challenge when Nevada needs it most. They’re tackling tough questions about the science behind COVID-19 and how it’s impacting our communities; they’re exploring new approaches to diagnosis and treatment; and they’re driving innovative approaches that will support a sustainable economic recovery for Nevada. 

Cleaning and Masking, and Pandemic Fatigue

This year has taught us all a lot about a bunch of things, including how to clean correctly, how viruses work (and why masks help with them). We’ve also learned another thing – that we’re all more than ready for this pandemic to be over. 

Service, Arts, and Philanthropy

When the world abruptly came to a halt this spring, UNLV faculty, staff and students stepped up to donate – and sometimes create – PPE and testing supplies. They also raised money for the university’s food pantry, offered virtual tutoring and storytime for kids unable to attend daycare or school in-person, and found a way to give students the connectivity they need to stay ahead with virtual learning. 

  • When schools and libraries closed, UNLV’s College of Education and the Gayle A. Zeiter Literacy Center created the ‘UNLV COVID-19 Read Aloud Project’ which provides educational resources for families to access digitally. KSNV-TV: News 3, KLAS-TV: 8 News Now, and KNPR had the story. 
  • The College of Education teamed with MGM Resorts to offer free virtual tutoring for children of MGM employees through the school year. Casino Beats and Hospitality Net have more details.
  • In late March, when we were still all figuring out what we were dealing with, the School of Public Health hosted a community panel discussion with experts from UNLV and the Southern Nevada Health District. The event was streamed live by multiple local media outlets, with additional stories on KLAS-TV: 8 News Now, Yahoo!, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and KTNV-TV 13.
  • School of Life Sciences professor Helen Wing and students spoke to KTNV-TV: ABC 13, KSNV: News 3, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal on how they created a viral transport medium to help protect coronavirus test specimens as they are transported to hospitals.
  • UNLV Nursing professor Jay Tan created PPE for first responders in local hospitals this spring, and he talked about it with the Nevada Current, Business Insider, and KTNV-TV 13; College of Engineering faculty and students also helped fabricate PPE, and their efforts were covered by KLAS-TV: 8 News Now and Newswise
  • To help combat accessibility and affordability obstacles, UNLV partnered with Cox Communications to offer students WiFi discounts. UNLV Executive Vice President and Provost Chris Heavey explained the benefits of the program to KLAS-TV: 8 News Now, KVVU-TV: FOX 5, and KTNV-TV: ABC 13.
  • The College of Fine Arts offered inspiration through the arts with a  weekly YouTube program. They spoke about it on KNPR. The college also spoke with Desert Companion about creativity in quarantine, and KLAS-TV: 8 News Now captured a pop-up campus concert by the Department of Dance. 
  • The UNLV Cares Food Pantry received a $250,000 federal grant to help UNLV students and staff in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. The award was featured in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, KNPR, and KTNV-TV 13


The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to reflect on many things in 2020, including our relationship with technology (and how technology affects relationships) during lockdown, how we view school and work, and the critical importance of mental health. 


Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, every decision made about whether or not to temporarily close businesses, restrict travel, and how many people to allow (or not allow) in any given place has been met with intense scrutiny. Leaders are forced to make decisions that balance public health and the health of their economies – and all along the way UNLV’s experts have offered important context to local and national conversations. 

Want more?

Stay up to date with the latest UNLV news by signing up to receive our daily “In the News” digest.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>