Berkeley Conversations: COVID-19 (live)

Across the UC Berkeley campus, researchers are rising to meet the complex challenges of COVID-19 even as the crisis generates waves of news and information that can be confusing and contradictory at times. In response, the university is launching a new online video series, “Berkeley Conversations: Covid-19”, to connect our leading experts with the public they serve, and each other. Through Q&A’s, seminars, and panel discussions, faculty from a wide range of disciplines—from epidemiology to economics to the computing and data now undergirding their work—will share what they know, and what they are learning.


COVID-19 is threatening the health and economic security of communities around the world, with dire implications for those living in poverty. As the pandemic unfolds, the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) is committed to sharing practical insights that can support evidence-based responses in the Global South. This panel will feature four experts from the CEGA research community: faculty co-Directors Ted Miguel and Josh Blumenstock, along with affiliates Supreet Kaur and Paul Niehaus. Panelists will discuss ongoing and completed research that sheds light on the economic toll of the pandemic, as well as the optimal design and targeting of cash transfer programs. We hope these insights will help to inform government and NGO decision-making in the face of what could quickly become a protracted crisis.

This event is sponsored by Center of Evaluation for Global Action.




Bats are thought to harbor hundreds of coronaviruses, as well as many other types of viruses that are highly pathogenic in humans. Dr. Cara Brook and Professor Britt Glaunsinger will provide insight into what allows bats to exist with such an array of potentially lethal viruses, how pathogens like the coronavirus jump into the human population and how the coronavirus is able to hijack a human cell to amplify itself and evade the immune system. They will also discuss the coordinated efforts across UC Berkeley to track the virus, discover exactly how it works and develop new therapies.

Speakers are: Britt Glaunsinger, Professor, Department of Plant & Microbial Biology & Class of 1963 Endowed Chair, HHMI Investigator Cara Brook, Miller Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Integrative Biology




Past Events (recorded)


UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and the California Initiative for Health Equity & Action (Cal-IHEA) recently completed the largest survey of Californians to date regarding opinions and attitudes related to COVID-19. The results are fascinating and point to a wide range of potential political and societal impacts arising from our still-unfolding responses to the pandemic.

This discussion with IGS Co-Directors Cristina Mora and Eric Schickler and Cal-IHEA Director Hector Rodriguez, who together devised and ran the poll, delved into the significance and meaning of the data, and what it all might portend for California and the nation in the current context of political polarization and racial inequality.

This event was sponsored by Institute of Governmental Studies.



A discussion of the role of digital technology and telehealth amidst the COVID-19 pandemic from the perspective of public health, medicine, and mental health. Panelists will discuss how we can leverage technology to reach people in need during social distancing as well as the challenges of reaching low-resourced communities with lower digital literacy.

Adrian Aguilera, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Welfare at UC Berkeley and the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Francisco.

Courtney Lyles, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the UCSF Division of General Internal Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations, and the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. She is also Adjunct Associate Professor at Berkeley Public Health.

Elaine Khoong, MD, is a general internist and assistant professor of medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

Heather Ladov, LCSW, is a Mental Health Supervisor at La Clinica de la Raza, Casa del Sol in Oakland.

David Lindeman, (moderator) PhD, is Director Health, Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), UC Berkeley, and Director, Center for Technology and Aging (CTA).



As plans for re-opening businesses, communities, and schools emerge, mechanisms to track the SARS-COV-2 virus become increasingly critical to consider. In this conversation led by Nobel Laureate Saul Perlmutter, Director of the Berkeley Institute for Data Science and Professor of Physics, Berkeley faculty presented their recent research findings and data on COVID-19 infection and death rates. They discussed how they are using data to better understand how many people are infected and actually dying from COVID-19, whether infections and deaths are going up or down, and how much we can afford to increase mobility. They also addressed broader questions about what data we need, how to protect it using encryption, and how to improve the ways we track and limit the pandemic.

This event was sponsored by the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society and the Berkeley Institute for Data Science.



Nordic countries are regularly cited as exemplars of healthy and resilient societies. Join us for a virtual conversation comparing and contrasting the Nordic public health, economic, and public policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the responses by Denmark and Sweden, and consider learnings that may be drawn by the U.S. Hosted by Dr. Laura Tyson, Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley, the event featured Dr. Robert Strand, Executive Director of the Center for Responsible Business and leading expert on Nordic sustainable business and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Dr. Ann Keller, Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management and leading expert on pandemic responses.

This event was sponsored by the UC Berkeley Haas Center for Responsible Business, the UC Berkeley Department of Scandinavian, the Institute of European Studies, the Peder Sather Center, and Nordic Talks at Berkeley.



The COVID-19 pandemic has already had a deep impact on the 2020 presidential election, from a battle over when to hold the Wisconsin primary to the postponement of other primaries and even the Democratic convention. In the months ahead, it will shape every facet of the contest: the issues, the mechanics of campaigns, how candidates engage the voters, and ultimately, how we cast our ballots. A panel of Berkeley political scientists and election experts discuss election law and security, voter participation, and how COVID-19 may permanently change how America votes.

This event was sponsored by Goldman School of Public Policy.



Recent years have witnessed a rise in the level of nationalism in many countries, with tightened immigration policies and stronger governmental oversight of multinational research collaborations. At the same time, competition among countries and universities for international students has increased significantly, while the demographics of young populations in many countries are shifting. Now, the onset of an historic global pandemic, with its serious travel challenges and dramatic economic effects, raises yet another threat to the future of internationalization on U.S. campuses.

How can universities develop new policies and practices that respond to both problems and opportunities resulting from this unprecedented crisis?

Three outstandingly expert and highly experienced figures in the field of international higher education presented their thoughts and discussed these important topics.

This event was sponsored by Center for Studies in Higher Education and the Berkeley International Group.



Berkeley Global was pleased to present this unique discussion with two global thought-leaders in Public Health and Journalism which explored the challenges reporters and researchers alike face when it comes to providing accurate information about a new virus and a pandemic of historic proportions. This look behind the scenes shed light on the collaborative efforts of scientists and journalists to support policy makers and the public in navigating the crisis. We hope to have challenged your current understanding of the pandemic, provided criteria you can use when choosing sources of information and to have explored possible scenarios of an eventual return to normalcy.

Dr. Frederick Wehrle, Assistant Dean for Academic Design and Innovation, moderated a discussion with John Swartzberg, M.D., clinical professor emeritus at the School of Public Health and Ed Wasserman, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism.

This event was sponsored by UC Berkeley Extension.



In a continuation of our live town hall series, Berkeley faculty and healthcare leaders on the frontline explored the challenges and opportunities that the global COVID-19 pandemic is creating for hospitals, integrated delivery systems and clinics, especially those serving rural Americans and diverse populations.

The panel featured Jane Garcia (CEO of La Clínica de la Raza), Lynn Barr (CEO of Caravan Health), Richard Levy (Chair of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health Advisory Council and former Chair of the Board of Sutter Health), Stephen Lockhart (Chief Medical Officer of Sutter Health) and Stephen Shortell (Professor Emeritus in Health Policy and Management). The panel was moderated by Kimberly MacPherson, Faculty Program Director for Health Policy and Management at the School of Public Health and the Executive Director of Health Management and Distinguished Teaching Fellow at the Haas School of Business.

This event was sponsored by UC Berkeley School of Public Health.



The panel provided multiple perspectives on the potential financial impact of COVID-19 on California’s public colleges and universities. Panel members included campus CEOs from the University of California and California State University system as well as from a UC Berkeley higher education researcher with experience as a CFO at multiple UC and CSU campuses.

Specific topics addressed by the panelists included the financial impact of current responses to the COVID-19 crisis including on-line instruction and the curtailment of on campus activities. Panelists also provided their perspectives on how individual campuses are preparing for future operations.

The panel reviewed the differences between the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 with the current and future financial impact of COVID-19. This included a review of current action by the federal government such as Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and its impact on UC and CSU campuses.

This event was sponsored by the Center for Studies in Higher Education.



Pressure was mounting to reopen the economy, and some locales are rushing to do so. Deciding how and when it was safe for people to return to work, school, and public life was a complex topic that involves implementing widespread testing; accurate assessment of exposure risks; ensuring health care system capacity; putting in place procedures and routines to protect workers; setting guidelines for mass behavior changes; and restoring public trust. How can we go about making these decisions and getting plans in place? A panel of experts from the Haas School of Business and the School of Public Health will engage in an interactive discussion on what needs to happen to reopen businesses and get people back to work while protecting public health and preventing a second wave of coronavirus infections.

This event was sponsored by the Haas School of Business and the School of Public Health.



Literature and the arts have always had a prominent place in defining who we are as human beings and in making life worth living. This is all the more apparent in times of crisis, such as the one we have been living in. Join prominent Berkeley faculty members from Music, Art History, and English as they shared their insights into what makes literature and the arts so critically important to us now.

The panelists were Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, the Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Arts and Humanities; Mark Danner, who holds the Class of 1961 Endowed Chair in Journalism and English; and Nicholas Mathew, a professor in the Department of Music.

This event was sponsored by Berkeley Conversations.



Dr. Joyce Dorado and Dr. Susan Stone discussed practical strategies for addressing pandemic-related trauma and stress in individuals and systems (e.g. educational, child welfare, public health) through the lens of trauma-informed principles based in the science of trauma, stress, resilience, and healing. How might the disruptions of the COVID-19 crisis affect individuals and organizations in the short term, and how can we prevent a second epidemic of acute and chronic trauma-related difficulties? What science-based tools can we use to navigate this challenging time?

This event was sponsored by Berkeley Social Welfare.



In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economy is skidding into recession. Reduced consumption and transportation also mean reduced CO2 emissions. From India to China to the United States, skies are blue and the air is cleaner and healthier in cities than it has been for years. The pandemic has caused seismic shifts in how we produce and consume goods and could open a path to a more sustainable future. Or, government bailouts and investments could double down on the fossil fuel economy, and set back efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change. This conversation featured Berkeley researchers discussing the science and policy behind CO2 emissions and opportunities for a different path forward.

This event was sponsored by Rausser College of Natural Resources.



Emerging data show that African Americans and other U.S. ethnic minorities are being stricken by COVID-19 at a higher rate, and experiencing greater sickness and a higher death toll than other Americans. Some have said that COVID-19 is “ravaging” black communities. In this interactive conversation, five faculty members from the School of Public Health will discuss how racism shapes vulnerability to COVID19, why African Americans are being so heavily impacted, and why these disparities matter.

This event is sponsored by the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley and the School of Public Health.



Emerging data show the COVID-19 pandemic is amplifying socioeconomic disparities as the coronavirus advances across the country and the world. In this interactive conversation, three faculty researchers discussed how they are making choices about data sources, research methods, and technologies to identify and address social disparities. They considered how these choices as well as approaches to building relationships with marginalized and at-risk communities can shape research directed at addressing the impacts of COVID-19 across different populations.

This event was sponsored by the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society, and the Berkeley Institute for Data Science.



Three leading Berkeley psychologists discussed effective approaches and strategies for dealing with the anxiety, stress and uncertainty that are inherent parts of the COVID-19 crisis.

Prof. Frank Worrell is a faculty member at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education. He is an expert on the challenges of learning at home, the benefits of structure and the sort of online resources that best support learning and wellbeing.

Sonia Bishop is an associate professor within the Department of Psychology and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. Among her areas of expertise are anxiety and decision-making under uncertainty

Dacher Keltner is a professor of Psychology and Co-Director of the Greater Good Science Center. He will share ideas and practices for cultivating resilience and connection as we face the challenges of the coming months.



At this time of unprecedented challenge, Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos discussed and took questions about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on campus operations and activities; how the campus has responded and adopted innovative approaches; and planning underway for a variety of possible scenarios.



Berkeley’s School of Public Health hosted a follow-up to its initial town hall, Coronavirus: Facts & Fears that focused on illuminating the facts and dispelling fears around this public health crisis. Part 2 of this series, Coronavirus: Science and Solutions focused on addressing unanswered questions from the last town hall and highlighting emerging science that will drive solutions to this and future pandemic outbreaks.



The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis threatening to become an economic catastrophe that affects tens of millions of Americans. Is the $2 trillion aid package recently passed by Congress and signed by the president enough to keep the economy from freefall? What more is needed? 

A panel of UC Berkeley’s leading economists and public policy experts discussed the economic consequences of sheltering-in-place, evaluated the Congressional response and discussed strategies that could help to stabilize the economy, safeguard jobs and protect society’s most vulnerable people.

This event was sponsored by the Goldman School of Public Policy and UC Berkeley’s Opportunity Lab.



Nobel Laureate Saul Perlmutter, Director of the Berkeley Institute for Data Science, and Michael Lu, Dean of the Berkeley School of Public Health, hosted and moderated a roundtable discussion with Berkeley researchers who are mobilizing computing and data science for COVID-19 response and recovery, from helping local public health officials track the pandemic to predicting and addressing its impacts on employment and elections.

This event was sponsored by the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society.



This Q&A with Professor Art Reingold and Associate Provost Jennifer Chayes focused on helping the public make sense of data and information about the virus’s spread, the impact and efficacy of social distancing, and the implications for our short- and long-term future.

Art Reingold, M.D., is the Division Head of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Berkeley School of Public Health. He has more than 40 years of experience on prevention and control of infectious diseases at the national and global level.

Jennifer Chayes is the Associate Provost who leads the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society, and the Dean of the School of Information. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her research areas include biomedicine applications and epidemiological modeling.