Seven hundred and sixty-two days ago, COVID-19 invaded Michigan.
Since then, Michigan has suffered years of pandemic adversity that has come at a cost too high to fathom.
Children have lost years of education.
Young adults have never been more depressed and isolated.
Lockdowns and protests and drug overdoses and suicides compounded the mental health crisis.
We thought the worst was behind us in the summer of 2021 when vaccination rates skyrocketed across the state and country.
However, more lockdowns and pandemic-related mandates reclaimed our lives in the fall and winter with the emergence of the Delta and Omicron variants.
But the tide has turned once more.
Just about everyone I know has had the Coronavirus at some point since this nightmare began.
Immunity is up and cases are down.
The final remnants of pandemic life are fading away.
Here at SVSU, the NEST program has done its work and the campus community is ready to move on.
One of the only pandemic policies still in effect is the mask mandate in classroom settings, which SVSU has finally decided to remove at the end of the winter semester.
We should be proud of ourselves for making it this far. It was no easy feat for any of us. COVID-19 has shaped our lives in a plethora of ways, many of which we never asked for.
But we’re here.
The smoke is clearing, and we mourn those we loved and lost.
We found our own ways to navigate pandemic life, and as the wheel of life continues to turn, we rejoice as we welcome the next chapter of our lives.
It seems too good to be true.
We’ve been scarred by the paranoia and the masks and the social distancing and the contact tracing and the quarantining and the online learning.
We wonder if SVSU will bring masks and distancing back if another wave of the virus sweeps the nation into chaos once more.
It’s a reasonable fear, for SVSU brought mask mandates back once before.
That is why SVSU made the right call removing all campus mask mandates after the winter semester.
It gives the community time to prepare for the adjustment we’ll see in May.
The current culture of caution remains for one more month, which will feel like nothing when observing the tragic, interminable timeline of this virus.
If we really wanted, we could keep this going on forever, for there will always be more variants, more waves, more breakthrough cases and more anger as everyday citizens see politicians and pandemic experts breaking their own rules.
If we don’t turn the page soon, we’ll lose our window of opportunity to reclaim our independent lives, and the politicians will continue to assure us they know what’s best.
It’s time for free will and independence to be celebrated once more, lest we forget and stumble back into the miserable cycle of past mistakes.
Everyone who wanted a vaccine got one.
Everyone who was eligible for boosters has been boosted.
What more can be done?
We were assured that all we had to do was get vaccinated, but the goalposts kept shifting, and they always will.
We must reclaim our lives and accept that COVID-19 will become endemic.
We cannot sacrifice our livelihoods again in exchange for more lockdowns, online learning, canceled events, capacity limits and social distancing.
Such measures have dealt permanent damage to our lives, damage we will continue to see and feel for years to come.
History proves that independence is a struggle.
King George III didn’t gift us the United States.
Our independence was fought and bled for.
It is a precious prize won by the will of the people, and it isn’t guaranteed to last forever.
The people must continue the struggle and never give an inch, for when an inch is given, a foot is taken, and when a foot is taken, an entire mile is stolen.
In May 2022, SVSU ends all mask mandates. We must hold the line. They mustn’t return again.