March 18, 2021
RE: A Different Sort of Pandemic
To: All campus
March 18, 2021
Dear Campus Community:
It has been a year since California issued the emergency shelter-in-place order that officially confirmed that COVID-19 was upending our world. Even as decreasing infection rates and increasing vaccination rates give us hope, it is important to bear witness to what this past year has wrought. All of us have worked incredibly hard to maintain our important educational and research work; in the first weeks, we were shifting our response almost daily as new information brought home to us both the danger and capriciousness of the disease. Eventually, we settled into a “new normal,” with supply chains once again allowing us to count on the availability of everyday necessities, technology allowing us to conduct business, and sufficient emergency funding to enable us to maintain our workforce and services to students.
Yet under that veneer of normalcy, we have all grieved for what we have lost. We grieve for family and friends who have lost their livelihoods and for others who have lost their lives. We grieve the loss of a sense of safety when engaged in any activities outside of our homes. Humanity’s resilience requires us to grieve losses, and that means both acknowledging those losses and sharing them in our communities. Ironically, with this disease, we cannot mourn in community without putting ourselves at risk of further loss.
And this brings to light what we are coming to see as the second pandemic caused by the first: the spread of mental illness. This ranges from mild anxiety and social paranoia to suicide, and research is showing particularly how affected our students have been as they try to continue their studies while handling the economic, physical and social hardships that have been inflicted on them.
Regarding COVID-19, we are hopeful for the coming year. CDC estimates of the proportion of reported infections to total infections suggest that half of Americans have had COVID-19. Vaccination is proceeding quickly. Barring the emergence of variants that evade immunity to current strains, the serious disease caused by the virus will be manageable by mid-summer, if not sooner. Then, in person, we will be better able to address the mental health pandemic by being able to bear witness together.
We look forward to that day.
Juan Sánchez Muñoz, Ph.D.
Gregg Camfield, Ph.D.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
Remarks and Addresses