As it has for more than a year, the COVID-19 pandemic dominated the week in news. But, unlike a year ago, some entries have made it into the “thumbs up” category, as opposed to the not-quite-as-terrible news that we’ve all become accustomed to. D.C. finally has the coronavirus in retreat – vaccination rates are climbing, officials are loosening pandemic restrictions on campus for the summer and classic D.C. activities like museum visits will soon be a reality again.
But for students who just left the District after enduring a closed-down school year, the shift to normal life is coming just too late for them to take part in it. And for the scores of people at home and abroad who have not had access to the vaccine, the full weight of the pandemic remains crushing.
Here’s the best and worst from this week’s headlines:
As cicadas and tourists alike begin to flood the city, anyone who is in the District right now is getting a first peek at post-pandemic life. More than half of D.C. residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and cases have hit their lowest level of the entire pandemic. For those students who are still on campus, this improving public health situation is a boon for their social lives: anyone living on campus can now visit other residence halls without restrictions, and mandatory testing has been reduced from weekly to monthly for those who are vaccinated.
Any member of the GW community – or even the general public – who hasn’t been able to get a vaccine yet can show up to the Marvin Center during select hours to get their Pfizer shot.
Off campus, the Smithsonian museums have announced a staggered reopening over the course of the next three months, starting with the National Museum of Natural History on June 18. Pandemic-era restrictions throughout the District are slated to end on June 11, with bars, restaurants and countless other attractions springing to life again.
D.C.’s gradual reopening is good news all around. It means fewer people are losing their lives and livelihoods to the virus, and it means people will be able to recoup some of the time and experiences they lost over the past 14 months. The road to full recovery is long and winding, but the District is starting to finally hit milestones.
Not everyone is experiencing D.C.’s gradual tilt toward normalcy. Students who left campus at the end of the spring semester are missing out on the District’s impending official reopening by mere weeks. After 14 months of school-from-home, they will need to wait three more months before they can have a college experience. Granted, missing out on the college experience is by far not the worst kind of suffering the pandemic has wrought. But the months of learning and laughing that people have seen slip away should not be dismissed.
Outside of the GW bubble, the public health crisis is not receding quite as quickly. Even as D.C. improves, people in the District and around the country are still getting sick, dying and sinking into poverty because of the effects of the pandemic. The health and economic effects are still being borne disproportionately by low-income people and people of color – and GW students should be mindful of that fact even as many of us rejoice in our own returns to normalcy.
And outside the U.S., the situation remains even more dire. With less-wealthy and less-powerful countries struggling to obtain vaccines, the death toll keeps climbing and climbing. GW students who are taking their first steps into a post-pandemic world should do what they can to help those who are still in the throes of crisis.
Andrew Sugrue, a senior majoring in political communication and political science, is the opinions editor.