University of Southern Mississippi creates free COVID course

The University of Southern Mississippi is offering a free online course aimed to educate the public about the coronavirus.

The six-part, “Understanding the Pandemic: A COVID-19 Public Service Short Course,“ is an effort of Dr. Douglas Masterson, senior associate provost for institutional effectiveness and a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Masterson said he was inspired to create the course when he realized how much misinformation and misunderstanding there was among the public about the novel coronavirus and pandemics in general.

“As professors, we conduct research in our areas and publish that research in journals that are read largely by other academics,“ Masterson said. “The opportunity to put our scholarly work into a context related to current events highlights the importance of what we do in academia and fulfills the mission of serving the public good.”

The six modules are the history of pandemics; social and economic impact of pandemics; coronavirus and epidemiology; spread, prevention, and treatment; vaccines; and personal health and wellness in a pandemic.

Each module is presented in a video presentation format by a University of Southern Mississippi faculty member whose expertise and academic focus is on the given topic. More than 15 professors and public health professionals contributed to the project. The course takes about three hours to complete.

“You’re not going to take this course and become a COVID-19 expert, but when you take this course you will have a better foundation for what this pandemic may mean for you. It’s going to help you navigate the things you’re hearing on the news,” Masterson said.

The state health department said Sunday that Mississippi, with a population of about 3 million, has reported nearly 97,000 cases and at least 2,919 deaths from COVID-19 as of Saturday evening. That’s an increase of 182 confirmed cases and eight deaths from numbers reported the day before.

The true number of virus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. The virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most but can be more severe or fatal for some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems.

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