UO professor tweets to spread awareness about COVID-19 risks

Ellen Peters has been using Twitter and statistics to show students the risks their behaviors have for themselves and others.

Posted: Oct 23, 2020 7:09 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- The University of Oregon is now requiring that all students, staff, faculty, vendors and visitors wear a face covering when in outdoor public spaces on campus regardless of whether or not six feet of distance can be maintained between people.

This new rule went into effect on Thursday after the university sent out an email to students. 

The email also said the university is recommending that the use of a face shield alone should only be done on a very limited basis when wearing a mask or face covering is not feasible. 

Health officials have been struggling to communicate the importance of health strategies to those in the college-age group. However, one University of Oregon professor is stepping up to help with that. 

Ellen Peters, director of the Center for Science Communication Research at the University of Oregon, has been trying to motivate students to practice good behavior.

The professor has been using Twitter and statistics to show students the risks their behaviors have for themselves and others.

Peters said students have been extremely receptive and actually surprised to hear how likely it is that they'll run into someone who is COVID-19 positive. They have been retweeting her and thanking her for taking the time to spell out the risk social gatherings have on our community. 

She told KEZI she hopes students use this information to make informed decisions when they're making plans to celebrate Halloween or traveling for the holidays down the road. 

"Don't shame people for their activities. People may not know what kind of an effect they have on people so they may be making choices that you don't like. But remember they are their choices and when you try to shame people for those kind of choices it just backfires. So working to educate them instead just works much better," Peters said. 

Peters breaks down different scenarios on Twitter to show how much the risk increases the more people attend a party or event. 

"Based on current infections in Lane County, if you go to a party with 10 people there's about a 4% chance that you're going to run into at least one COVID positive person at that party. But, if you go to a party with 100 people, that goes up to 37% and that means you have nine times the risk if you go to that larger event compared to the smaller event. If you go to an event with just two people there's only a 1% chance so it's actually pretty small," Peters said. 

Peters said she would never tell anyone to not socialize because it's human nature. However, if you can do so safely, she said it will drastically improve the numbers in Lane County. 

She told KEZI 9 News if you communicate rules well and they're based on science then students won't feel like they're on their own. They will know what to do or what not to do and that will lead to encouraging others to do the same. 

By bringing social media into the equation, you can reach more people in the college-age group and spread the information with just a click of a button. 

If you want to see some of the breakdowns Peters tweets out, you can follow her here. 

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