For many, March marks the first day of spring – new life, growth, and an end to a solemn winter. This year’s spring has also offered fresh signs of hope to the Las Vegas community, as efforts to battle the COVID-19 pandemic have led to declining cases in Nevada and nationwide.
UNLV continued to offer vaccinations for first responders, educators, and the general public. University faculty and staff - and even Vice President Kamala Harris – weighed in on the cause. Local businesses began to show signs of regrowth, in line with UNLV experts’ predictions about a soon-to-be booming, post-pandemic economy. And after a year of virtual graduations, UNLV announced in-person commencement ceremonies this May for 2020 and 2021 college graduates.
After a year of turmoil and struggle, UNLV welcomes spring with grace, recovery, and opportunity. All this and more in the latest edition of UNLV Newsmakers.
Be Gone, COVID-19
COVID-19 vaccinations continued to roll out in March nationwide, with more than 100 million people receiving inoculations. UNLV continued to host a vaccine distribution site for the community, serving more than 2,000 people a day. Below is a list of news stories highlighting UNLV experts and students who played a significant role in keeping the public apprised of the latest developments.
- Vice President Kamala Harris visited UNLV’s vaccination site in the Student Union during her tour of Nevada. Political scientist Kenneth Miller, history professor Michael Green, and UNLV Medicine student Lauren Hollifield talked about it with the AP (via U.S. News & World Report) and KSNV-TV: News 3.
- Public health professor Brian Labus talked about two-dose vaccinations, herd immunity, and CDC guidelines for newly vaccinated communities.
- Michael Gardner, vice dean for clinical affairs at the School of Medicine, talked about UNLV’s vaccination sites, expanded eligibility, and vaccine hesitancy.
- School of Medicine director of bioethics Johan C. Bester compared AstraZeneca with other vaccines on Insider. He also spoke to Newsweek about the projected rate of herd immunity.
- Family and community medicine professor David Glenn Weismiller offered guidance on vaccination timelines for those previously infected with COVID-19 in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
- Labus and Anjala Krishen, professor of marketing and international business, discussed the progress in vaccine rollouts, and ways to spread the word on KNPR.
- Marc J. Kahn, dean of the UNLV School of Medicine, explained to KVVU-TV: FOX 5 why some survivors of COVID experience a distorted sense of smell. He also spoke to KLAS-TV: 8 News Now about decreased COVID cases amid vaccination increases and breakthrough COVID-19 cases in vaccinated individuals.
- Chair of pediatrics Evelyn Montalvo Stanton recommended that Nevadans with underlying diseases consult with their specialist before taking the vaccine on KTNV-TV: ABC 13.
- Verywell Health asked Center for Health Disparities Research executive director Melva Thompson-Robinson about the barriers preventing teachers from getting vaccinated.
- Communications studies professor Natalie Pennington and vaccine expert Johan C. Bester analyzed the ethics, guilt, and envy Nevadans face following COVID-19 vaccinations on KNPR.
- Bester, communications professor Rebecca Rice, and Marc J. Kahn offered tips on how to approach vaccine skeptics in the Las Vegas Review-Journal and on KLAS-TV: 8 News Now. Kahn also reflected on his experiences as a new dean during the emergence of COVID in Las Vegas Weekly and the Las Vegas Sun.
- Medical resident Cameron Charlow reflected on his experience with the year-long pandemic on El Tiempo.
UNLV Announces In-Person Graduation
Excitement about the improving COVID situation hit close to home, too. In March, UNLV president Keith E. Whitfield announced that preparations were underway for in-person commencement ceremonies this spring. Both 2020 and spring 2021 graduates will have the chance to walk and receive their diplomas with friends and family in mid-May.
“Graduation is the culmination of a student’s educational journey and is a significant milestone in their UNLV career,” Whitfield said. “We need to make every effort to provide an experience our graduates so richly deserve.”
- AP, The Nevada Independent (twice), Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas Sun, Pahrump Valley Times, KTNV-TV: ABC 13, KLAS-TV: 8 News Now (twice), (three times), KVVU-TV: FOX 5 (twice)
Return to In-Person Classes
As increased vaccination rates enabled K-12 school districts to consider reopening their doors for in-person learning, some people were overjoyed while others feared that their institutions opened too early.
UNLV joined the discussion as administrators announced that in-person classes will resume in the fall. As UNLV prepares for a safe return, university experts tapped into the importance of in-person education, the external influences guiding reopening plans, and tips on how to return to class safely.
- UNLV announced in-person classes in the fall, as well as employees’ return to campus by July.
- College of Education policy professor Bradley Marianno explained how teachers’ unions can be a greater influence than hospitalization rates in reopening schools.
- Katherine Lee, professor of school psychology, emphasized how communication is needed when considering in-person learning on KTNV-TV: ABC 13 and KLAS-TV: 8 News Now.
“Blooming” Business: Projected Economic Recovery
Rise and shine, Las Vegas! The year-long pandemic seems to be nearing an end. As vaccinations continue to roll out, UNLV experts predict a spike in tourism and economic recovery for the hospitality industry. From hotel grand openings to the struggle of nonprofits operating during the pandemic to celebrations of historic gambling, UNLV experts offered the following economic predictions for Southern Nevada.
- Hospitality professor Amanda Belarmino, and distinguished fellow in responsible gaming Alan Feldman analyzed the increase in Las Vegas tourists during basketball season and spring break via the AP and the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
- Belarmino and Feldman, along with history professor Michael Green, gaming historian David Schwartz, and interim Economic Development vice president Bo Bernhard analyzed the sale of Las Vegas Sands Corp.’s Strip assets.
- Belarmino, Feldman, and public health professor Brian Labus talked to the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the economic and social impact that vaccination passports will have on Las Vegas.
- Belarmino and Schwartz explained why Reno has been making a quicker economic recovery than Las Vegas.
- Schwartz, Feldman, and Green reflected on the 90-year history of legalized gambling in Nevada:
- Belarmino explained to the Las Vegas Review-Journal how increased capacity in restaurants would help improve customer confidence.
- Professor of public policy and leadership Jessica K. A. Word spoke to the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the public’s growing reliance on nonprofits during the pandemic.
- Feldman discussed Las Vegas’s projected economic recovery with the Wall Street Journal.
- Stephen Miller, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal and KLAS-TV: 8 News Now that he expects the Las Vegas economy will continue to recover
- Belarmino and hospitality professor Mehmet Erdem analyzed the remodeling agreement between Rio and Hyatt in the Las Vegas Review-Journal and El Tiempo.
- Belarmino and hospitality professor Finley Cotrone reflected on the post-pandemic tourism and the Virgin hotel opening in the Las Vegas Review-Journal and on KLAS-TV: 8 News Now.
General Expert Roundup
- KSNV-TV: News 3, KTNV-TV: ABC 13 (twice), and Yahoo! covered Match Day, a ceremony held for the inaugural graduating class of UNLV Medicine students to unveil where they will serve out their residencies.
- Las Vegas Weekly, The Hindu, KTNV-TV: ABC 13, and Yahoo! talked with communication studies Natalie Pennington about the consequences of pandemic isolation. She also discussed how friendships in video games and phone calls combat loneliness on Time, The Washington Post, KVVU-TV: FOX 5, and Deseret News.
- Astrophysicist Jason Steffen predicted an asteroid's projected region of impact on earth on KVVU-TV: FOX 5.
- Amanda Haboush-Deloye, interim executive director for the Nevada Institute for Children's Research and Policy, explained how families are emotionally impacted by the pandemic on KOLO: ABC 8 News Now, and also reflected on the child care industry in the Nevada Current.
- Astronomy interviewed astrophysics professor Stephen Lepp about the first chemical bond that created the universe.
- UNLV Immigration Clinic director Michael Kagan analyzed the U.S. temporary residency opportunity for Venezuelans on AP.
- Samantha Coogan, director of the Didactic Program in Nutrition and Dietetics, talked to Las Vegas Weekly about “gut instinct” and digestive health.
- Psychology professor Stephen D. Benning discussed tensions between gun legislation reforms and recent mass shootings on KNPR.
- Healthline asked Couple and Family Therapy professor Brandon Eddy for tips on talking about family planning with a partner.
- David Orentlicher, director of the UNLV Health Law Program, talked to Time Magazine about the legal risks involved with physician-assisted death.
- History professor A.B. Wilkinson and art graduate assistant Fawn Douglas showcased the Nuwu Arts and Activism Studio on KNPR.
- Couple and Family Therapy professor Katherine M. Hertlein offered advice on digital dating and relationships in Cosmopolitan.
- The Las Vegas Review-Journal talked to psychologist Stephen D. Benning about pandemic fatigue.
- International Gaming Institute director of research Brett Abarbanel talked about the future of Esports on Vegas PBS.
- Rebel Recycling program manager Tara Pike identified the crisis in Nevada recycling in interviews with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and El Tiempo.
- Sociology professor Barbara G. Brents explained to the AP why sex workers feel uncomfortable in reporting crimes to the police. Vox interviewed her about how the Cancel Porn movement can become a target of misdirected anxieties.
- Economist Ian McDonough analyzed Nevada food insecurity in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
- Real Simple interviewed psychology professor Lianne Barnes on compassion fatigue during the year-long pandemic.
- William Sousa, director of the Center for Crime and Justice Policy, reflected on the new FBI mandate in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
- Planetary geochemist Christopher Adcock explained to The Verge how Mars may hold water underground.
- KNPR talked about the relationship between child poverty and new child tax credits with law professor Francine J. Lipman.