On March 10, NMU administration sent out an email recognizing the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic’s presence here, which began with the first confirmed case in Michigan. Since the pandemic began causing changes in our lives a year ago, much has been lost, and much has been altered. In this university, the most drastic change has been in our ways of teaching and learning. We endured a long period of quarantine at home last spring. Incoming freshmen lost their senior years, and outgoing undergrads did as well. Many of us experienced having COVID-19 and worrying over family and friends who contracted the virus. Many of us even lost those we cared about.
It’s impossible to talk about this pandemic without acknowledging the tragedy at the heart of this situation: the 15,935 COVID-19 deaths which have occurred here in the state of Michigan as of March 25. It has been terrible to watch. As mostly young people, we’ve been forced to come to terms with our closeness to death. For many of us, reflections on mortality hit home when we feared for our parents, grandparents, other relatives and friends.
Secondary impacts of the pandemic abound. Many students lost jobs near the beginning of quarantine, causing difficulties paying rent and figuring out how to live and continue studying. Many of us were simply not able to continue our studies at all, reflected in the significant decrease in enrollment at NMU this Winter semester. Our generation has lived through two significant economic recessions at this point, and our awareness of the fragility of economic stability will likely stay with us into the future.
At this point, approximately midway through the winter semester without a spring break, and a year into COVID-19, we’re pretty burned out. Community members are burned out. Working in retail and customer service is more stressful and fraught with arguments than ever. Compliance with mask requirements is a simple rule, but too many people can’t seem to accept it.
It is frustrating that the pandemic continues to impact us because much more could have been done on an individual level to shorten the crisis. Yet the wearing of masks and even the vaccines have become politicized.
As we look forward to the summer and to Fall semester, we need to remain hopeful yet realistic. This pandemic has opened our eyes as to how resilient we need to be through uncertain times. It took away plans and preconceived notions we had, and we now know that nothing is certain, and our normal lives and routines can be flipped abruptly.
On the side of hope, looking back over the whole year, we’re still all in it together still, and we’re all going to continue being in it as one. The campus community has been doing well recognizing the seriousness of the pandemic while still trying to keep events going safely.
And on a more collective and national level, COVID-19 has positively changed the way we think about mental and physical health. There seems to be a greater understanding in others when topics of depression, intense grief and loss and burnout are brought up today. We have collectively experienced the toll a pandemic can have on our mental health, so many people are much more sympathetic regarding personal situations. Mental health has perhaps become less of a taboo topic in the popular media. We hope people take this one-year anniversary as an opportunity to reflect and give ourselves a pat on the back for our resilience. We made it here alive through troubling times.
Although we’ve acclimated to our new normal as much as we can, we’ll never be fully comfortable with the way we currently have to live. Not getting enough social interaction is tough, and it’s not how we’re supposed to live. There’s no guarantee that next semester will be any different, so we need to remain strong.
We urge our peers if you’re given the opportunity to get vaccinated against this virus, take it. The faster we get vaccinated, the faster we’ll be able to relax more than we have in the past year.
Editor’s Note: The North Wind is committed to offering a free and open public forum of ideas, publishing a wide range of viewpoints to accurately represent the NMU student body. This is an editorial, written by the North Wind Editorial Board in its entirety. It reflects the majority views of the individuals who make up the editorial staff of the North Wind. It is the policy of the Editorial Board not to endorse candidates for any political office, in order to avoid aligning this public forum with particular political organizations.