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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Happy fourth Quarantine-iversary

The world may not be the same as it was pre-pandemic, but at least we can hug people again

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Nearly four years ago on Mar. 13, 2020, California governor Gavin Newsom issued an order to close schools in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. What was originally celebrated as an extra two weeks of spring break quickly spiraled into over a year of isolation, alarming death tolls and the sinking reality that this would be our ‘new normal.’ No one knew when the global lockdown would end, and there was nothing we could do but wait. 

Once it became clear that COVID was here to stay, we were thrown into a routine of never-ending Zoom meetings, strict masking regulations and daily health questionnaires. Conversations about upcoming school dances and sports seasons were replaced with handouts on vaccination policies and social distancing guidelines. Waking up with something as seemingly innocuous as a sore throat would often lead to rapid testing, contact tracing and a two-week quarantine.

If you were like the majority of high school students during lockdown, most of 2020 probably felt a lot like Groundhog Day, repeating on an incessant loop. A phenomenon dubbed the “2020 Effect” has been used to describe our collective skewed perception of time during the pandemic, where monotonous routines and lack of social interaction made the days’ events blur together. The world seemed to be in agreement that we were making a rapid descent into a state of perpetual turmoil.

Current undergraduates have the unique perspective of seeing everything come full circle, as we are now in the same grade as we were in high school when the pandemic began. Here we all are four years later, living in the exact moments we spent those lockdown days dreaming about. During the peak of COVID, as case numbers were climbing out of control, an eventual return to normalcy seemed impossible. We weren’t able to enjoy something as simple as sitting in a lecture hall (think of this the next time you’re tempted to skip class!), eating in a restaurant or speaking to a coworker without having to imagine what the lower half of their face looked like without a mask.

Although it’s easy to dwell on missed milestones, we can also reflect on the growth we experienced during lockdown. We were forced to slow down and appreciate the things we tend to take for granted, like time. In a society that never seems to slow down, free time can be a luxury. Away from school and work, many of us were able to more deeply connect with ourselves and explore our interests. The pandemic served as a harsh reminder that time is not an infinite resource, and now that we’re back to our fast-paced lifestyles, we need to be mindful about spending it in ways that make us fulfilled and happy.

Perhaps the most obvious realization we had during the pandemic was that our relationships have a profound impact on our lives and mental health. Brief interactions like joking with a classmate and hugging a friend became things of the past, and prolonged social isolation prompted us to reflect on our innate need for human connection. Now that we are able to have in-person gatherings once again, it’s important to cherish the moments we have with friends and family.

Soon-to-be-graduates can also look forward to finally having a proper send-off after their high school events like prom, senior trips and an in-person commencement ceremony were canceled. Barring the arrival of another global crisis, UC Davis’ class of 2024 will have the opportunity to physically walk across the stage; four years ago, most high school graduates received their diplomas from the safety of their cars, or worse, in the mail. So if you’re wrapping up your final months of college, get ready to celebrate in a way that would make your high school self proud — and even if you’re not graduating, you may as well use COVID’s anniversary as an excuse to enjoy everything you missed out on while stuck in lockdown.

We also recognize that many members of our community lost loved ones during the pandemic and that certain individuals, such as those who are immunocompromised and the elderly, are still significantly impacted by COVID. We need to remain aware of the pandemic’s lasting mental and physical impacts in our society and approach these struggles with empathy and understanding.

Written by: The Editorial Board

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