Effects of collective action highlight widespread community benefits

Graduate students, faculty researchers, startups are volunteering their time to combat effects of COVID-19

Illustration of coronavirus and medical supplies
Lily Callender/Staff

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COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, has undeniably transformed the fabric of American society — a recent survey from the Centre for Experimental Research on Fairness, Inequality and Rationality showed that Americans are experiencing increased feelings of solidarity with others. This alludes to feelings of unity among Americans to aid vulnerable groups in society, which is largely demonstrated by the research centers and companies within the Berkeley community. Essential or not, many selfless individuals have pivoted their research and company goals to help those in need. 

Graduate students and faculty researchers have diverted their research to projects related to the coronavirus. Campus public health professor Arthur Reingold is using his area of expertise to model data from health care institutions to learn how many people are infected with the disease. Graduate students across the board have forfeited their downtime to be involved with the Innovative Genomics Institute, or IGI, to understand where COVID-19 hot spots may be in the Bay Area and pursue further testing.

If there’s a silver lining to this pandemic, it’s that it has led to solidarity among campus professionals with different backgrounds to brainstorm tangible solutions for the Berkeley community in a time when an all-hands-on-deck approach to mitigate the effects of the virus is desperately needed. The IGI has strived to meet the moment by founding a lab to process diagnostic tests. In a span of three weeks, the lab has gathered hundreds of volunteers, who underwent safety training to administer these tests, and has helped University Health Services expand testing to symptomatic students and vulnerable staff. Establishing a lab of this scope and size in such a short amount of time is unprecedented and illustrates the campus community’s dedication to serving vulnerable members of the population.

While the campus has been stepping up to support the Berkeley community, various Berkeley-based companies have been creating new organizations or adapting their existing infrastructure to best serve the population. In a time when panic-buying has ravaged grocery store aisles, delivery services such as Kiwibot and DoorDash are expanding and updating their services to make sure meals and other necessities are brought directly to peoples’ houses. In a similar vein, the local startup Precision Patient Outcomes has adapted to the demands of the pandemic by producing 3D reusable masks for health care workers and first responders. These companies serve as examples of businesses seeking to simultaneously survive in the deteriorating economy and provide for the community.

Individuals in varying professional fields have stood in solidarity to help vulnerable members of the Berkeley community. Those working behind the scenes in fields unrelated to health care are just as worthy of praise as those who serve on the frontlines. As collective action increases, the effects of the coronavirus can hopefully be alleviated.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the spring 2020 opinion editor, Simmy Khetpal.