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Notes from Day 721: The End Of Covid?

By The Crimson Editorial Board

March 10th changed everything. Everyone.

Exactly two years ago, Harvard students saw their world collapse unto them — flinging them far apart, away from their friends, in a one-way ticket toward an ocean of uncertainty. Two years and two new class cohorts later, our campus is not the same. And neither are we.

Every single one of us experienced the pandemic in different, devastating ways, each tuned to their own personal unraveling. Our oldest students hurriedly jammed their entire lives into suitcases and boxes almost overnight — some they carried with them, some were left behind, dusting and awaiting an eventual return. The youngest cohorts were never kicked off their college campus but gave up their last few months (years, sometimes) of high school instead, missed proms and severed teenage years be damned. Some of us were forced to return home amid uncertain visa statuses and travel bans, torn away from a country, a life, and a mosaic of loved ones with no return date in sight.

And a sizeable minority experienced pure loss. Family members, friends, loved ones. Absent faces mourned haltingly amid the chaos, sometimes from afar.

As our campus dissolved into pixelated classes, a single unifying thread tied our experiences together: collective, seemingly boundless, grief. It defined our young outlook in a rotten reality. And it dragged on, and on, and on, no matter how hard we pinched or prodded ourselves to wake up from the dystopic hellscape. Every morning: the rising and falling curves, the mounting tolls, the distraught. Pictures of eerily empty streets and refrigerated trucks overflowing with passed ones; an endless flurry of new variants and unsettling long-term side effects.

Masks that, though necessary, hid and tortured our smiles.

We lost our spring break and then the summer after that. We lost hope for a quick fix and a normal return in the fall. We missed Christmas and then spring, and then summer again. During our formative years, our best years, the years where we were supposed to discover ourselves, grow, and figure out how we fit into this confusing, vertiginous world, we got nothing — nothing but collective grief.

But the end is in sight. Or so it seems.

Severe Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are down, thanks in no small part to our medical prowess. Cambridge is about to lift its mask mandate. Harvard, too, is lowering pandemic-era restrictions, and shifting towards mask-less life and classes. We are, by most accounts, on the brink of relative normalcy.

That cautious, promising truth is a reason for gratitude.

We are grateful for those who got us here. For those who suffered, acknowledged or not, through years of immense pain and struggle — from the frontline workers, who risked their lives everyday to significant tribute but lackluster pay increases, to those who suddenly found themselves unable to read lips and hence interact with the world around them. We are grateful, above all, for the normalcy that our easy access to vaccines, masks, and care has afforded us.

But gratitude is not enough. Today, March 10th, 2022, is a time for joy. Joy at the fact that, against all odds, we are back to (roughly) where we yearned to be during the very worse: to hugs, and smiles, and our in-person, no longer indefinitely delayed lives.

Of course, not everything is fine — last week’s case numbers proof that convincingly. The “end of covid” doesn’t mean we don’t need to be mindful about residual or new restrictions; it doesn’t imply that the scars of the past two years will heal magically overnight. But it does mean we finally get to live the first years of our young adulthood.

And we should. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that there is genuinely no guarantee that we will be able to do so tomorrow. New crises will emerge; our volatile reality could, at any point, shatter once again. We’ve learnt that everything we cherish — grabbing coffee at that one special spot, spending time with loved ones, complaining about classes that you actually love — might not be there in the future.

Now, on the apparent back end of things, is the time to finally stretch our legs and run with all that we love. Time to experience all the things we couldn’t to the fullest extent we can, to fix every regret, fulfill every delayed wish or aspiration. Seniors, please appreciate every last second of the full senior spring others missed. Juniors, make sure to finish your (effective) freshman spring strong. Sophomores and freshmen, get a taste of everything — yes, everything — for the very first time.

We have grown and changed immensely over these two blurry, dreadful years. They weren’t, after all, just a void, a gap in our memory — even if many of us initially faced them on those terms. We must, past the initial shock, take stock and pride ourselves for all that we did to create a sense of normalcy in fundamentally abnormal conditions – to build something whole in a time where everything felt broken. We should remember and cherish our own strength. We should remember, too, that this was a collective experience, a global, never-ending funeral — and that collective kindness and solidarity for others should define our newly reborn perspectives.

Only time will tell whether this is truly the end of our Covid days or just a mere, disappointing pause before the next scary-sounding variant emerges. But this March 10th feels like a bright new beginning. Seize it.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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