A&S scholars sharing their COVID-19 expertise in the media this week

April 24, 2020 by Jovana Jankovic - A&S News

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our community and the world, scholars from a range of disciplines across the Faculty of Arts & Science are sharing their expertise on pressing issues in the media — from speculations about China and the World Health Organization to implications on consumer finance and the development of new virus tracing technologies.

Here’s some of what A&S scholars had to say this past week.

April 23, 2020

  • Lynette Ong, associate professor in the Department of Political Science and the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, is quoted in a CBC News article about how attention towards COVID-19 has allowed some governments to take controversial actions unnoticed — such as the recent arrest of 15 pro-democracy activists in China. “They know the rest of the world's attention is on coronavirus,” says Ong of Chinese authorities.
  • Alán Aspuru-Guzik, professor of computer science and chemistry, is quoted in a CBC News article about “contact tracing” — tracking patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 — and the technologies that can enable it. Aspuru-Guzik discusses MyTrace, an app being developed out of the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence at U of T. 
  • Christopher Parsons, senior research associate at the Citizen Lab in the Munk School, is quoted in a CBC News article on a new internet threat-blocking tool that can protect Canadians from malicious websites. Lauding the software, Parsons also warns that continual assessment and evaluation of the tool are key to its ongoing success.  
  • Gabriel Eidelman, assistant professor in the Munk School and director of the Urban Policy Lab, comments on the impact the COVID-19 outbreak has had on municipal budgets in a Globe and Mail article (paywall).
  • Enid Slack, director of the Institute of Municipal Finance & Governance at the Munk School, is featured on a panel on TVO’s The Agenda about municipal budget shortfalls as revenue streams are affected by the pandemic. Slack comments on property taxes, transit fares, building permit fees, utility bill deferrals, and other lost sources of city revenue.

April 22, 2020

  • Dimitry Anastakis, professor in the Department of History and R.J. Currie Chair in Canadian Business History at the Rotman School of Management, comments in a CBC News article about consumer spending and saving during the lockdown. Attitudes toward money are “generational,” says Anastakis. “The baby boomers and all those that followed are not savers.”
  • Rafael Gomez, associate professor and director of the Centre for Industrial Relations & Human Resources, comments on compensation and protections for essential grocery store workers in a CityNews article. Essential workers are “critical lifelines now for the rest of society,” says Gomez. “These people should be able to get a lot more than they’re getting.” Gomez was also featured on a number of local radio stations across Canada discussing the same topic.
  • Associate Professor Dionne Pohler of the Centre for Industrial Relations & Human Resources is interviewed for a Global News article on universal basic income in Canada. Pohler debunks some myths about UBI and explores some policy avenues through which a UBI could be funded by various levels of government.
  • Lynette Ong participates in a panel on TVO’s The Agenda about Canada-China relations during COVID-19. Ong says the pandemic has revealed how Chinese “information control” has implications not only on Chinese citizens, but on “you and me and everyone else in this world.”
  • Alex Luscombe, a PhD student in the Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies, comments in a National Post article on the “harmful and dehumanizing” practice of issuing fines to people who don’t follow public health guidelines. Luscombe and his collaborators’ “Policing the Pandemic” project has received media coverage in multiple media outlets over the last few weeks. Luscombe also co-wrote an op-ed in the Montreal Gazette on the topic. 

April 20, 2020

  • Lynette Ong is quoted in a NOW Magazine article about controversies surrounding China’s early response to the coronavirus — and accompanying criticisms from conservative politicians. Ong says “there’s a lot more to be carefully studied” when it comes to China's pandemic response.