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New Year, New Fear: Tales of a Scared and Sad Student

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

Fall 2021 felt like a long-deserved turning point in the COVID-19 pandemic. UC Davis returned to in-person classes, and I actually felt comfortable going to events and hanging out with people outside my household. Despite my struggle with social anxiety, which had worsened during online school, I found that I enjoyed seeing people on campus, and I was excited to say that I met new people and made new friends. Masked, vaxxed, and boosted, I was finally able to experience college in-person, and not sitting on my bed, staring at my computer screen.

Yet just weeks before the new year, UCD announced remote classes for the first week of school. The Omicron variant had quickly spread and it dominated the news. I tried to stay optimistic. At least we were not rushing into in-person classes before everyone could get tested for COVID-19. Maybe everyone would get tested and then we would start school in person again. Days after I moved back to Davis, it seemed like everyone in my Zoom classes and club meetings were talking about Omicron and rising case rates. For the first time, I knew more people who had COVID or were exposed than I could count. The fear I felt during the early pandemic days of 2020 returned. I ordered KN95 masks and checked the COVID-19 dashboards every couple hours. I anxiously awaited my negative test results, and signed a petition for full online accessibility to UCD classes. Everyone I talked to complained about the lack of updates or information from the administration, despite having over 1,000 positive cases reported on the UC Davis COVID-19 Dashboard from December 30th to January 6th.

Finally, on January 6th, we got some answers. In a confusing approach, a video of Chancellor Gary May announcing that classes would continue remotely until January 28th was posted on Instagram and YouTube. Later, emails containing the same information were sent out to all students. Today, just a day later, I feel relieved. I was feeling anxious about the idea of entering a classroom where there was a high chance I would be exposed to COVID-19. Even though I am vaccinated and have the booster shot, the possibility of long-term side effects or serious symptoms is not something I want to risk. Additionally, going back in person would be especially unfair to students who are immunocompromised, have disabilities, live with children unable to be vaccinated or live with elderly folks. At the same time, it is crushing to know that the next three weeks (and possibly more) of this quarter will be online. Considering how in March 2020 the university slowly moved classes online for longer and longer periods, this feels uncomfortably familiar.

Many questions and worries remain. What will happen to lab or studio classes? How do we know what activities are safe? Club sports and student organizations are struggling with recruitment, and planning for study abroad programs and events like Picnic Day seems to be faltering. As of right now, I am scared and sad, but I am also hopeful. We flattened the curve before; we can do it again. Let’s hope this works and we will be back in-person safely soon.