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Monday, November 29, 2021

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One year later: the coronavirus pandemic at UH


Many UH students expected remote learning to go on for a couple weeks last March, but the pandemic quickly spiraled out of control. | File photo

Many UH students expected remote learning to go on for a couple weeks last March, but the pandemic quickly spiraled out of control. | File photo

When COVID-19 officially became a pandemic on March 11, 2020, a year ago Thursday, the UH community had expected life to return to normal relatively quickly. 

The first positive case of the novel coronavirus was reported in the Houston area on March 4, 2020; alarms across the region began to sound.

“While we know this news is concerning, it is not unexpected,” said Dr. Jacquelyn Johnson-Minter, director of Fort Bend County Health and Human Services, at the time.

COVID-19, as the disease had come to be known, was steadily spreading across the country and hitting major cities like New York and Seattle especially hard.

This Fort Bend County septuagenarian’s positive case, however, indicated the beginning of a new — and unsettling — era. 

The coronavirus was here, and it was about to change the lives of millions in Houston.

How we got here

When cases first began to arrive, there was little to no response from schools and universities at the time, and UH President Renu Khator issued limitations on travel from Wuhan, China — the origin of the virus.

Fear of the disease was low, even from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an organization that is now a household name on navigating the pandemic. 

“Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers this new Coronavirus to be a serious public health threat,” said Dr. Vanessa Tilney, then the Student Health Center’s chief physician, “they consider the immediate risk to the American public to be low at this time.”

A week later, March 11, 2020, changed our lives and altered the trajectory of this University. 

While students were celebrating spring break, the school announced all university activities were moved online for the rest of the semester. 

Adapting

As classes shifted to a format that many students were not accustomed to, students struggled to adapt to online learning. 

In the past year, the school administration adopted a pass/fail grading system to ease the potential burden on students. 

Masks are mandatory on campus and social distancing and frequent hand hygiene are highly encouraged for the entire UH community.

Students learned to grow small businesses from their homes, use the newfound time at hand as a means of growing their creativity and found new ways to continue pursuing their dreams. 

Life with COVID-19 is different, but it has now become life as we know it. 

Going forward

In the past year, vaccines are slowly making their way into the mainstream.

Health care workers, individuals over 50 and those who have pre-existing conditions are all beginning to receive their first or second doses.

Texas has reopened to 100% capacity and lifted mask mandates, although some refer to this move as “premature.”

Additionally, with vaccines bringing some people immunity, the Office of the Provost announced last week the resuming of in-person commencement this year, as well as granting May and December 2020 graduates the opportunity to walk across the commencement stage. 

These times have been peculiar, but the UH community has done its best to adapt. This is the new normal, and Coogs are owning it. 

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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