Aaron Vojtus, a scholar in the Garfield Center for Public Leadership, recaps the group’s recent virtual seminar titled “Contextualizing COVID: The Economic and Security Implications of the Pandemic.” Led by James Thompson, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, the Garfield Center for Public Leadership at Hiram College prepares students to assume the responsibilities of public leadership by developing expertise in matters of public policy, foreign and domestic, grounded in Hiram’s traditional liberal arts education.

Full of experts from different sectors to help shed light on the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the United States, a recent panel hosted by the Garfield Center for Public Leadership consisted of Dr. Gigi Gronvall, of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security; Dr. Mark Schweitzer, senior vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland; and Andrew Weber, former assistant secretary of defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs. These experts spoke and interacted with an audience of Garfield Scholars and members of the Hiram community to help put the impacts of COVID into perspective.

Dr. Gigi Grovall was the first to speak. As a serologist, she is currently researching new COVID-19 serology tests. She spoke about the response from the United States in regard to the virus and voiced her disappointment for current treatment options. Dr. Gronvall was specifically baffled by the amount of time it has taken doctors and scientists alike to test treatment options and discern which treatments work in the interim until a vaccine can be produced.

COVID-19 is a virus that not only threatens us on a physical level, but also an economic level and Dr. Mark Schweitzer helped to elucidate that. Dr. Mark Schweitzer presented the fiscal impact of the coronavirus both short term and long term. He noted that some sectors have rebounded quicker, while other may have issues returning to their normal earnings. Dr. Schweitzer also noted the significant decrease in the U.S. GDP as a result of the coronavirus. He spoke on the future of the U.S. economy, speculating inflation as the market begins to recover.

Andrew Weber was the final panelist for the seminar. He talked about some of his assignments during his time as the assistant secretary and on how the coronavirus has displayed that the U.S. is not ready for a biological attack. He used anthrax as an example and said that a modified version of anthrax could still pose a serious threat to the United States given how easy it is to send and modify. He, along with Dr. Gronvall, warned that our current defenses are not enough to control a biological attack efficiently.

This seminar was not only informative, but entertaining to watch. The opportunity to interact with experts in their field is unique and rewarding. It truly put the wholistic impact of the coronavirus in perspective and highlighted how different sectors are actually very closely related to each other.

by Jenelle Bayus