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Pandemic fallout: Science and research projects may end up years behind

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it shut down schools, cities, and beaches – even entire industries.

Now, as things are reopening, researchers say it could take years for the scientific community to bounce back.

Two weeks after giving birth, Wakisha Stewart had a heart attack. “My artery tore, and I had to go in and have a stent placed. It was a widowmaker heart attack.”

Stewart said research into the rare condition not only saved her life but it helped her recover. “Being able to go back and read article after article and understand a little bit more, and be able to educate other people, that has really been great therapy for me.”

But now, COVID-19 has stalled research efforts across the country.

Kelly Glewa, executive director of the Southwest Florida American Heart Association, said the pandemic has hurt her organization’s funding streams and the AHA is adapting.

“We are actually hosting a virtual gala on June 5th,” she added. “We will continue to fund what is needed as best we can, given the revenue impacts”

Unfortunately, not all researchers have that opportunity.

“This global ongoing pandemic impacted negatively the research significantly,” said Arsalan Mirjafari, Ph.D., an organic chemist and associate professor in the department of chemistry & physics at Florida Gulf Coast University. “Fundamental research is completely paused because of the lack of funding.”

Research that is funded has slowed down significantly due to social distancing, he said, adding “I had six students in the lab, now I have one.”

Stewart said research projects have to continue so others can have the same second chance she did. “… To read about it, understand it, and also get connected with other people who may have gone through it with you – I mean, the peace of mind is worth more than anything to me.”

Not only to survive but to thrive.

The troubles don’t end there. Some grant applications aren’t getting processed, which means some research projects may end up years behind.

RESOURCES:

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Derrick Shaw
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