By Logan Baker 20

Like many of my titrations in quantitative analysis lab, my senior year reached an abrupt endpoint with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While not technically over, it certainly feels that way. The pre-recorded lecture videos and word documents full of notes can never replace the joy of having an 8 am class (OK, maybe I am enjoying the ability to sleep until noon). Just two short months ago, we were learning about the epidemiology of pandemics in microbiology, and now we are living in one.

This is not the way anyone anticipated the spring semester going, but UVA Wise faculty, staff and my fellow students have risen to the occasion. What makes our institution so special is the bond formed between faculty and students – and no pandemic can take that away. Although we are physically distant, the shared mission of our beloved college unites us.
My challenges as a student pale in comparison to many.

We owe an immense debt of gratitude to the healthcare workers risking their lives to treat COVID-19 patients. For too long, our society has looked down upon those we now consider essential employees – grocery store clerks, fast food workers and delivery drivers. This crisis has forced us to examine how we value labor, and I hope it will lead to higher wages and better worker protections for our essential employees.

However, my pessimistic side worries this crisis will only further stratify wealth and income inequality. This crisis has exposed deep inequalities within our society – the white collar workers who are able to make a living working from home and those who have been laid off and thrown into the clutches of poverty. A society is only as just as how it treats its most vulnerable – and by that measure, we have failed.

SARS-CoV-2 has truly illustrated how fragile we are as a species. Even with our advances in science and technology, we are still beholden to the whims of Mother Nature, but we are not without fault. This virus should serve as a warning to humanity. With the displacement of animals from their natural habitats and increased risk of zoonotic transmission, climate change will only accelerate the frequency with which these pandemics occur. If we are to survive as a species, we must make drastic but necessary fundamental changes. Welcome to the new normal.