Berkeley universities

Berkeley community reflects on two years of COVID-19

As UC Berkeley marks the second anniversary of the campus’ transition to distance learning on March 10, 2020, the campus community reflects on the unforgettable moments of the past two years.

From campus pandemic response to areas of personal growth, the Berkeley community had a lot to look back on. Berkeley City Councilman Rigel Robinson recalled the exact moment the campus announced its closure.

“My assistant and I were walking down Telegraph, just in Dwight near bus stop 6, when we got the email,” Robinson said in an email. “I’ll never forget that feeling…it’s the moment I’ll remember forever when it really hit me that nothing would ever be the same.”

According to campus spokeswoman Janet Gilmore, UC Berkeley was one of the first universities in the nation to transition to distance learning.

After the first case of COVID-19 emerged in the City of Berkeley on March 3, 2020, which was not affiliated with anyone on campus, campus officials stepped up preparations for remote learning.

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

Gilmore noted that the wildfires and power outages the campus has experienced in previous years have helped prepare for a full shift to distance learning.

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

“Dr. Arthur Reingold, the head of our division of epidemiology, … 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 revealed the effectiveness of masks in preventing transmission of COVID-19, how COVID-19 spreads in a school setting, and how California farmworkers are having a disproportionate impact.

Over the past two years, Proulx has learned not to take his health or the health care system for granted.

“I have also (thought) a lot about myself in relation to the community during this pandemic and I am even more convinced that we must help the most vulnerable members of society rather than valuing personal “freedoms” in relation to to the health of the whole community,” Proulx said in the email.

Campus junior Kendrick Sharpe, who is on the course staff for 61A computer science, believes 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 appreciate 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_.