‘Be here now’: Berkeley community reflects on two years of COVID-19

photo of empty UC Berkeley campus
Sakura Cannestra/File
Reflecting on more than two years since the first Berkeley COVID-19 case, the Berkeley community considers the impacts of the pandemic in terms of technology, healthcare and education.

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As UC Berkeley marks the two-year anniversary of campus moving to remote instruction March 10, 2020, the campus community reflects upon the unforgettable moments of the past two years.

From campus’s pandemic response to areas of personal growth, the Berkeley community had a lot to look back on. Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson remembered the exact moment when campus announced it would shut down.

“My aide and I were walking down Telegraph, right at Dwight near the 6 bus stop, when we got the email,” Robinson said in an email. “I’ll never forget that feeling … that was the moment I will remember forever where it truly struck me that nothing would be the same.”

According to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore, UC Berkeley was one of the first universities in the country to shift to remote instruction.

After the first COVID-19 case emerged in the city of Berkeley on March 3, 2020, which was not affiliated with anyone on campus, campus leaders intensified their preparations for remote learning.

“Our decision, which occurred when there were no known COVID-19 cases in our campus community, was based on consultation with campus experts and others,” Gilmore said in an email. “We wanted to take action before we had a COVID-19 case that could quickly spread.”

Gilmore remarked that the wildfires and power outages campus experienced in previous years assisted with preparing for an entire shift to remote instruction.

Meanwhile, spokesperson at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health Elise Proulx highlighted the school’s contributions to COVID-19 research and policy.

“Dr. Arthur Reingold, the head of our epidemiology division, … and Professor Emeritus John Swartzberg have been interviewed by the media hundreds of times over the past two years,” Proulx said in an email.

Proulx also noted how campus researchers have revealed the efficacy of masks in preventing COVID-19 transmission, how COVID-19 spreads through a school setting and how disproportionately impacted California’s farmworkers were.

Throughout the past two years, Proulx learned not to take her health or the healthcare system for granted.

“I’ve also (thought) a lot about self vs. community during this pandemic and am even more convinced that we need to help the most vulnerable members of society rather than valuing personal ‘freedoms’ over the health of the whole community,” Proulx said in the email.

Campus junior Kendrick Sharpe, who is on course staff for Computer Science 61A, believes that the amount of technology used during the pandemic will stay with us.

He noted that not only will schools rely more on virtual or hybrid models, but employers will increasingly value remote flexibility.

“I think the critical message is ‘be here now,’ ” Sharpe said. “The only thing we really have is the present.”

Contact Aileen Wu at [email protected], and follow them on Twitter at @aileenwu_.