COVID-19 Community Engagement

Many of our Zilber School of Public Health faculty and students are providing their time, energy and expertise to help our communities address the COVID-19 epidemic.

Community resources, information and support for Wisconsinites during the pandemic
Olivia Algiers, a recent MPH graduate of the Zilber School of Public Health in the Public Health Policy & Administration track, is working with the Medical College of Wisconsin on a COVID-19 community support project called 1000 Hometown Heroes. Through online communities on their Facebook, Instagram, and website, 1000 Hometown Heroes provides Wisconsinites with information on Milwaukee-area resources for things like food, housing, and mental health services, accurate and up-to-date public health messaging surrounding COVID-19 news and best practices, and local hero features – interviews and stories of people doing great things for their Wisconsin communities.
Zilber students serving as COVID-19 contact tracers

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many Zilber School of Public Health students have been gaining real world public health experience as COVID-19 contact tracers and case managers for local and state health departments, including the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Greenfield Health Department, Washington/Ozaukee County Health Department, Greendale Health Department, Oak Creek Health Department, and City of Milwaukee Health Department. One student is working as a contact tracer in Michigan as she takes her classes at UWM virtually this semester.

Zilber School students working in the field as contact tracers and supporting health department efforts to address the pandemic include Immaculate Apchemengich, Aaron Camacho, Brianna Campbell, Emily Deal, Lindsay Fuss, Jacob Greenberg, Maryn Hawkins, Haley Joyce, Tessa Kohler, Meghan Majors, Kinsey Mannebach, Heather Tolbert, Shoua Vang, Meng Xiong, and Michelle Zeratsky.

Public Health undergraduate student serves in COVID unit at Janesville nursing home

During the summer of 2020, UWM undergraduate public health student, Ashley Gerarden, worked as a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home in her hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin. During the months of June through August, Ashley worked in the COVID-19 lockdown unit. She wore an N95 mask with a disposable mask on top and a face shield daily. Whenever Ashley entered a COVID-positive resident’s room, she needed to wear full personal protective equipment. Ashley performed her normal duties such as bathing, toileting, feeding and other basic care, along with compassion and love for the residents. Ashley said, “I made sure to spend time with residents as they were in lockdown and unable to see their family members in person for that entire time. It was difficult for me to accept my assignment as I was scared of contracting or spreading the disease to my family. But I knew I needed to step up and be there for the residents when others could not. This journey taught me that being faced with challenges that scare me help me to become a stronger person.”

Zilber School students and alumni assist in developing data reports for local health departments

Zilber School students and alumni are putting their data skills to work, and serving their communities, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sarah Laurent recently volunteered with the Milwaukee Health Department creating daily COVID maps.

Emiya Peer is currently working for the Oak Creek Health Department. Her work there involves developing in-depth weekly data reports for the Oak Creek, Cudahy and South Milwaukee/St. Francis communities. Emiya is also conducting deeper data analyses (such as asymptomatic vs. symptomatic cases or how many contacts each positive case identifies) to help the Health Department with its decision-making.

Katelyn DeGroot is working as a COVID epidemiologist for the Department of Health and Human Services within the Bureau of Communicable Disease for the State of Wisconsin. In this role, Katelyn is working with COVID data and answering questions for local health departments. Katelyn says, “I am using surveillance and outbreak skills and really enjoy my new role!“

Epidemiology and data analysis for the City of Milwaukee Health Department
Dr. Lorraine Halinka Malcoe is volunteering her expertise in epidemiology and data analysis to the City of Milwaukee Health Department’s efforts to address COVID-19.
North Shore Health Department contact tracing and data analysis
Amanda Her, an MPH student in the Epidemiology track, is working with the North Shore Health Department to assist with contact tracing and analyze death certificate data to assess increases in deaths due to other causes before and during the pandemic.
Milwaukee Health Department emergency response planning
Kyla Quigley, an MPH student in the Epidemiology track, is working with the Milwaukee Health Department as part of her field experience, and assisting in emergency response planning for COVID-19.
Epidemiology in an outbreak
Dr. Helen Meier presented “Epidemiology in an Outbreak” on May 6, 2020 at Data You Can Use’s Health Data User Groups quarterly meeting. Dr. Meier’s presentation covered the topic of using plain language to explain how the data, tools and methods of epidemiology are put to work to keep communities safe in a pandemic. You can view a video of the meeting here.
Milwaukee County Unified Emergency Operations Center Epidemiology Intelligence team
Dr. Amanda Simanek and Dr. Mustafa Hussein are members of the Epidemiology Intelligence team for the Milwaukee County Unified Emergency Operations Center (April 8th-present). This group consists of faculty and staff from Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) who were funded by Wisconsin American Health Education Care, Milwaukee County public health officials and selected Zilber School faculty. The group meets weekly to discuss data-related issues, a weekly report on COVID-19 for use by County health departments and other ad hoc reports drafted on topics such as County level projections, effects of in-person voting, and recent outbreaks that are produced by MCW staff.
UW System Plan Ahead Team, Public Health Subteam
Dr. Amanda Simanek was a member of the UW System Plan Ahead Team, and specifically the Public Health subteam (April 27th-May 31st 2020). This team was tasked with planning regarding how and when students, staff and faculty can return to campus and how to protect individuals while on campus and monitor trends.
Public health media expert
Dr. Amanda Simanek has served as a featured expert for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (May 20th-present) “Ask the Experts” column on COVID-19, by John Diedrich, in which she answers reader questions related to COVID-19. Dr. Simanek has also served as a featured media expert for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Division of University Relations & Communications, Media Services (March 13th-present). This has included responding to media inquiries related to topics such as public health strategies, managing the COVID-19 crisis, how COVID-19 is transmitted, preventative measures that people can take to protect themselves, the importance of social distancing and more.
Outside expert, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wisconsin
Dr. Amanda Simanek and Dr. Lorraine Halinka Malcoe served as outside experts for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wisconsin in April, 2020. Dr. Simanek and Dr. Halinka Malcoe provided an affidavit for ACLU in support of the need for decarceration as a means to enable social distancing in Wisconsin prisons and jails.
Dr. Simanek also participated in a Facebook live session for ACLU WI to discuss the challenges of social distancing in prison and jails.