COVID-19: A look back at a year of service

College of Public Health and Health Professions faculty, staff and students stepped up to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in extraordinary ways. As we reflect on an unforgettable year and counting, we highlight a few of the contributions made by members of our college to protect the health of our community, state and world.

January 5, 2020

WHO publishes its first Disease Outbreak News on a new coronavirus identified in Wuhan, China.

January 21, 2020

The U.S. reports its first case of the novel coronavirus.

sars-cov-2 cell

Late January 2020

Dr. John Lednicky, a research professor of environmental and global health, offers expertise to the news media and public seeking answers about the novel coronavirus. After the genetic code for the virus is posted, Dr. Lednicky finds it is a good match for a coronavirus test he developed four years before. The test is later used by the department of environmental and global health to test thousands of people in Gainesville and central Florida.

people in biohazard gear working in lab

March 1, 2020

Florida announces two residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID19 testing

March 6, 2020

Dr. Ira Longini, a professor of biostatistics, and colleagues model the spread of COVID-19 within China and to other countries. In a study published in Science, the team concludes that the Wuhan travel ban may have only delayed the epidemic’s spread by three to five days in mainland China.

woman in mask passes out flyers

Mid-March 2020

Faculty, staff and students in the department of environmental and global health build a high throughput COVID-19 testing lab in the Emerging Pathogens Institute in just 10 days to meet the massive demand for testing.

person working in lab

Mid-March 2020

The department of clinical and health psychology quickly transitions patients of the UF Health – Psychology Specialties to telehealth appointments.

people conducting telehealth

March 14, 2020

The Florida Department of Health contacts state universities seeking public health students and faculty to assist with contact tracing. Several PHHP faculty and students volunteer and are deployed to health departments throughout the state.

students sitting around table

March 16, 2020

UF moves all classes to remote learning.

April 2020

Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology, provides important COVID-19 information for parents and health providers on pregnancy and children through media interviews and several articles in the medical literature throughout the pandemic.

sleeping child

April 2, 2020

In a commentary published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics, Dr. Ira Longini and colleagues propose a core protocol for testing new treatments and vaccines during an outbreak.

doctor giving shot

April 18, 2020

Drs. Sarah McKune, Eric Nelson and Anthony Maurelli, faculty members in environmental and global health, enroll more than 500 K-12 students from Gainesville’s P.K. Yonge in a study designed to better understand the role children play in community transmission of COVID-19.

study volunteers

May 2020

Drs. Tara Sabo-Attwood, John Lednicky and Cindy Prins, in collaboration with Dr. Navid Saleh of the University of Texas, launch a study designed to improve personal protective equipment for health care workers. Their project wraps nanomaterials — very small synthetic particles —in soap molecules designed to kill the virus once it is filtered by a face mask.

health care worker in personal protective equipment

May 2020

Faculty, staff and students in the department of environmental and global health, led by Dr. Joseph Bisesi, an assistant professor, begin wastewater surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 for the city of Cedar Key. They begin monitoring Gainesville wastewater in June and UF campus housing wastewater at the start of the fall semester.

wastewater collection device

May 5, 2020

UF Health launches Screen, Test & Protect. Jerne Shapiro, a faculty member in epidemiology, serves as the program’s lead epidemiologist. Her team also includes Dr. Cindy Prins, an associate professor of epidemiology and PHHP’s associate dean for educational affairs, who acts as the program’s infection preventionist, as well as several PHHP students serving as disease investigators.

group of masked people in meeting room

June 2020

Students in PHHP and other health colleges launch the UF chapter of the COVID-19 Student Service Corps.

two women providing COVID testing

July 2020

Dr. Sonja Rasmussen is named to a prestigious national committee charged with providing independent, scientific and medical-based guidance on how COVID-19 vaccines should be allocated. The committee releases its recommendations in October.


August 3, 2020

Dr. Natalie Dean publishes an opinion piece in the New York Times on the need for COVID-19 vaccine data. It is one of two articles she publishes in the New York Times, in addition to three opinion pieces in the Washington Post.

Dean, Natalie

August 4, 2020

Dr. Eric Coker, an assistant professor of environmental and global health, and colleagues publish a study that shows a strong relationship between air pollution and COVID-19 deaths in Northern Italy.

exhaust towers

August 26, 2020

Dr. Ira Longini and Dr. Natalie Dean, along with fellow members of the World Health Organization Solidarity Vaccines Trial Expert Group, publish recommendations for safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine trials in The Lancet.

Senior male is about to receive Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine

October 28, 2020

Research by Dr. Arch Mainous, a professor in the department of health services research, management and policy, and UF colleagues, suggests the flu shot may confer protection against severe COVID-19.

Nurse practitioner with Archer Family Health Care provides patient care.

November 1, 2020

Dr. John Lednicky and colleagues in the UF College of Engineering publish a study describing the detection of viable SARS-CoV-2 nearly 16 feet away from a hospitalized patient with COVID-19. Many experts consider it important evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is spread through aerosol transmission.

illustration of virus particles

December 14, 2020

The first COVID-19 vaccines are delivered to UF Health to immunize front line health care workers.

man receiving vaccination

January 19, 2020

Research led by Dr. Yang Yang, an associate professor of biostatistics, finds that while children are less susceptible to COVID-19, when they do become infected they can be nearly 60% more likely than adults over 60 to infect exposed family members.

woman checking child's temperature

February 2, 2021

UF Health announces a program to deliver COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapy to rural communities. Dr. Linda B. Cottler, associate dean for research and dean’s professor of epidemiology, leads community engagement efforts through the UF CTSI.

lab worker preparing drug

February 8, 2021

UF leads the way in indoor mask compliance among six universities participating in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of mask use on campuses. Dr. Cindy Prins serves as UF’s principal investigator for the study.

three seated students wearing masks

February 24, 2021

Dr. John Lednicky explains SARS-CoV-2 variants in an informational Q & A for the public.

John Lednicky

March 2021

UF HealthStreet continued its community engagement efforts during the pandemic. Throughout the year, HealthStreet conducted a COVID-19 survey with thousands of members, hosted virtual townhalls, distributed meals and much more.

HealthStreet entrance

March 3, 2021

In a World View article published in Nature, Dr. Natalie Dean urges scientists to pool data from COVID-19 vaccine trials so we have the most comprehensive information on their effectiveness.

March 11, 2021

Researchers in the department of environmental and global health publish an article in JAMA. Findings suggest schools should adopt a policy of testing quarantined students if they return to class before the end of a 14-day quarantine period.

masked students in classroom

March 23, 2021

Dr. Ilaria Capua co-authors an editorial published in The Lancet urging the development of thermostable vaccines.


April 22, 2021

Dr. Cindy Prins explains herd immunity in an informational Q & A for the public.

vaccination clinic

May 18, 2021

Dr. Sonja Rasmussen provides pointers to parents on COVID-19 vaccinations and the continuing need to be vigilant in protecting their children.

A dad helps his little girl go skateboarding

June 22, 2021

A study led by Dr. David Marra finds that mental confusion and disorientation may be early warning sign of severe COVID-19.

Computer screens in laboratory. Brain scans and coronavirus research

June 24, 2021

Dr. Ira Longini and other WHO researchers offer guidance on approaches to track, understand and mitigate COVID-19 virus variants.

samples in lab

July 7, 2021

Dr. Arch Mainous and colleagues find patients who had recovered from severe COVID-19 had more than twice the risk of being hospitalized again than patients who had not contracted COVID-19 or had a mild or moderate case.

Becky Hunter, RN, tends to one of her COVID patients on ICU Unit 82 at UF Health in Gainesville, FL.

August 6, 2021

As school resumes, Dr. Sonja Rasmussen discusses what parents should know and do to help their children stay well

school kids wearing backpacks