UC Berkeley professors, students express cautious optimism about COVID-19 pandemic

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According to professor John Swartzberg, although a COVID-19 vaccine will likely be available, it is not going to be a 'savior' in this pandemic, as it may not prevent people from being contagious.

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As the 2020 fall semester comes to an end, UC Berkeley professors and students expressed both concern and optimism over the future of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to John Swartzberg, campus clinical professor emeritus, the surge in COVID-19 cases will continue through the fall and winter. Although a vaccine will likely become available, its efficacy and the number of people who will get the vaccine still remain unknown, Swartzberg added.

“For everybody who works at the university, I confess the obligation of the university for our society,” Swartzberg said. “That’s not just the faculty but also involves students creating organizations that can help educate the community about how to handle this pandemic.”

Despite the pandemic’s likely continuation, Swartzberg said UC Berkeley has been doing a “very good job” in fulfilling its obligations to the Bay Area and to the world. 

Playing a key role in prevention, UC Berkeley has been producing astounding science that could lead to diagnostic breakthroughs, according to Swartzberg.

While a vaccine will likely be available, it is not going to be a “savior” in this pandemic, as it may not prevent people from being contagious, Swartzberg added.

As vaccine trials proceed, UC Berkeley will have to continue being cautious when experimenting with small numbers of in-person classes and activities, according to campus School of Public Health professor Arthur Reingold.

“If we want to keep transmission low, then we have to continue to be very cautious in what people do,” said Reingold. “People are gonna have to keep wearing masks in public for the foreseeable future, practice social distancing and good hand washing.”

For UC Berkeley sophomore Lucy Zhang, maintaining social distance at family and social events has been the hardest adjustment. Ever since returning home in March, Zhang said she hasn’t once left her house.

Zhang added that with Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, she thinks there will be an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases over the next few months.

“I definitely hope that after this entire year, we’re going to recover fast and people just stay home and do their part and put on a mask,” Zhang said. “That’s how I’ve been doing my part so I really hope others can do their part too.”

UC Berkeley sophomore Angela Liu echoed Zhang’s sentiment regarding the importance of social distancing during the holidays. 

According to Liu, COVID-19-related policies will not be as effective if “everyone is not on the same page” across different states.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to undo the curve and have it dip down again during spring; hopefully that will be the case,” Liu said.

Zoe Chen is a research and ideas reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @zoe_chen820