One year later: A reflection on the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic

Cover for 03/16/2021 issue

Lily Burris

Where were you March 13, 2020?

The last set of front-page headlines the Herald printed before the pandemic were, “Back and Better: After injury, WKU pitcher returns to rotation,” “Arabic program stands out in state,” “SGA to attend rally for higher education,” and “WKU students in Italy to return early.” Of those four headlines, only one story even mentions COVID-19.

When the coronavirus achieved official pandemic status, WKU was on spring break. The university decided to extend the break for another week, and there would be just two weeks of online classes before students return fully in person.

Students didn’t come back in person at all for the spring 2020. Instead, they packed up dorms and apartments, headed home and waited to see what was next.

WKU had students around the world when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Some students came home from abroad and were the first to experience a mandatory two-week quarantine, uncertain of what that really meant. Others were in the car on the way back from the west or sitting in their beach hotel room asking if they should just stay another week.

This issue of the Herald includes stories on a local charity trying to figure out how to safely help those in need in the pandemic, a new House bill on menstrual product taxes, a story about how student organizations are affected by the pandemic, and a piece on what the end of a COVID volleyball season looks like. We’re a year into this, and things look so different.

People don’t talk about what Bonnaroo looked like this year. There aren’t many people with a friend they’re calling across six time zones that they lived with last semester. No one has spring break plans that don’t include some type of Blackboard assignment they need to remember. Stadiums aren’t packed to the point of risking nachos in your hair because the person behind you got shoved. Things just are not the same.

Today, we wear masks and fill rooms to half capacity. There are plexiglass dividers for desks, offices and restaurants. People talk about vaccines and how long they need to quarantine, seven days or 10. We don’t hug strangers and we don’t dance with someone we don’t know.

The Herald runs multiple news stories each week with COVID updates from WKU and the governor. International news sources discuss vaccines that aren’t approved here, and you can’t fake an illness anymore to get that social obligation break you so desperately need.

We’re not in the same place we were a year ago.

So, where were you March 13, 2021?

Assignment Editor Lily Burris can be reached at [email protected] topper.wku.edu. Follow her on Twitter @lily_burris.