UC Davis expert panel weighs in on COVID-19 research, response and readiness in the U.S.


Close to 1,000 people tuned in live last Friday to a COVID-19 symposium featuring experts in immunology, infectious diseases, pathology and emergency medicine who presented the latest research and insights on coronavirus.

The event was put together and moderated by UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, College of Biological Sciences. It featured UC Davis physicians Emanuel Maverakis, Stuart Cohen and Nathan Kuppermann, UC Davis veterinarian Nicole Baumgarth, and pediatrician State Sen. Richard Pan.

Roadmap to lifting restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic

State Sen. Pan, who represents the Sacramento region and chairs the Senate Health Committee, gave an update on the status of coronavirus outbreak in California. He compared California’s response to the outbreak to that of New York and pointed to the importance of timely shut-down of businesses and shelter-in-place restrictions in limiting the spread of the virus.

“We are not even close to the point where we have enough people immune to the virus,” Pan said. “The State has a roadmap to opening and lifting shelter-in-place and loosening up restrictions, but there is a need to expand testing capacity and implementing consistent restrictions across the country. The restrictions are hard, but the alternative is even worse as we are as strong as the weakest link. The data and the science have to drive the decisions related to COVID-19.”

The science shaping our understanding of and response to COVID-19

Maverakis, professor in the Departments of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and Dermatology, spoke about what could have been done to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic. He compared Taiwan’s strategy to prevent the spread of the disease with that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States. He stressed on the importance of masking and proper hygiene practices that are both feasible and tolerable by the people.

Cohen, professor and chief of Division of Infectious Diseases and director of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control, shared information about the various clinical trials to find antiviral treatment and vaccine to COVID-19, especially those UC Davis is involved in.

Kuppermann, professor and chair in the Department of Emergency Medicine, talked about UC Davis Medical Center’s solid preparations and readiness to meet “unprecedented circumstances.” He stressed the importance of maintaining communication during these times and working closely as a team and in coordination with the command center. He highlighted his team’s collaboration with other physicians, including those in China, Italy and New York, to compare notes and inform practice.

Kuppermann also urged people not to delay care and to check with their physician or visit the emergency room when they are not feeling well. “People shouldn’t be scared to get checked at medical centers as delaying care might worsen their case,” he said.

Baumgarth, professor in the Center for Comparative Medicine and the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, talked about the structure of the virus, the way it infects humans and its genetic ancestry.

In addition to the main speakers, multiple presenters provided information on various topics such as proper masks and new screening tests. You-Lo Hsieh, distinguished professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, explained the differences between masks, and what the public can do when masks are unavailable.

Marilyn Stebbin, the first COVID-19 patient in Yolo county, talked about her experience with the disease and the medical care she received. She emphasized the need for a more patient-centered health system.

Anne Wyllie from Yale University shared the findings from her upcoming paper on using saliva for screening for SARS-CoV-2 and James R. Carey, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, presented on calculating COVID-19 mortality rate.

For the full webinar, watch the video on YouTube.