SNF Agora Institute discussion series explores policies, politics of the pandemic

Experts convene virtually to examine issues related to COVID-19 and its impact on democracy around the world

With public distrust in media and government running high even before the arrival of COVID-19, scientists and medical experts have stepped up in recent weeks to become trusted voices on the outbreak, sharing fact-based messages designed to inform and protect.

During a virtual conversation on COVID-19 and politics of information, hosted Friday by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins, JHU faculty member Colleen Barry hailed these experts as “true public health heroes.

“Those voices can go a long way toward providing at least the baseline we need to establish trust,” said Barry, who chairs the Department of Health Policy and Management at the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Barry was joined for the discussion by Dartmouth government professor and New York Times contributor Brendan Nyhan, an expert on misperceptions about politics and health care. Their conversation, moderated by SNF Agora Institute Director Hahrie Han, was the first in a new series titled “SNF Agora Conversations: The Politics and Policy of COVID-19.” Additional virtual conversations bringing together experts to discuss the political and policy implications of COVID-19 are planned in the weeks ahead.

“Like everyone else, we’ve been watching as events unfold around the coronavirus pandemic and … thinking about how our collective responses to the pandemic have the potential to exacerbate stresses that democracy all over the world has already been experiencing,” said Han, describing the new series as a “social-scientific, evidence-based approach to exploring some of the most vexing political and policy issues surrounding the pandemic.”

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