'Dear Pandemic:' Local researchers commit to COVID-19 facts

Thrown into the deep end of the COVID-19 pandemic, at one time or another, many of us have found ourselves drowning in complicated information. One group of female experts has set out to change that -- transforming the way we seek and share facts. 

"The World Health Organization has deemed parallel to the pandemic, something happening called an 'info-demic,'" said Dr. Amanda Simanek, UWM Associate Professor of Epidemiology.

Dr. Amanda Simanek

In the uncharted world of COVID-19, we've sought out heroes in hospitals, in classrooms, even at grocery stores. But who is helping us navigate the murky waters of complicated, and at times, overwhelming information?

"I think we joke that within our own networks, we're sort of the nerdy girls next door that people trust," said Simanek. 

In March, Simanek, an associate professor at UWM's Zilber School of Public Health, found herself fielding questions. 

"Started to be pinged by friends and family about, 'What's happening? What am I supposed to be doing? How can I stay safe?'" said Simanek. 

Meanwhile, at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Malia Jones was experiencing something similar. 

"There was a lot of misinformation spreading on social media," said Jones, associate scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Applied Population Lab.

In March, the duo teamed up with others in their networks, and soon, Dear Pandemic was born. 

Dear Pandemic

It's a site that curates educational content about COVID-19, and answers your questions based on facts. 

"I would really encourage people to think very critically about the source of where they are getting the information," said Jones. 

Dear Pandemic Facebook Live video

"Also, just the latest headlines are often difficult to navigate. Is this sensational, or is this true? What does this study result mean?" said Simanek. 

As the all-female research team of doctors, professors and scientists with varying expertise grew to more than a dozen self-proclaimed 'nerdy girls' volunteering their time, so did their reach. In the 10 months since launching, the team has garnered more than 58,000 followers on Facebook. 

"We actually do have followers from all over the world," said Simanek. "It's really a community."

Their goal is to keep the public in the know -- one post, video, or article at a time. 

Dear Pandemic

"Knowing that it could mean someone knows how to engage safely when they have to do something, knows how to protect their family or protect others from coronavirus, and have a direct result in hopefully stopping the spread of this infection and saving peoples' lives," said Simanek. 

The researchers at Dear Pandemic host weekly Facebook Live videos -- where they will answer your COVID-19-related questions. To submit a question, CLICK HERE. To read Dear Pandemic's most recent and previous articles, CLICK HERE

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