One Year Later: The Phoenix Looks Back at the Start of the Coronavirus Pandemic By: The Phoenix Staff

A year ago, Loyola students were evacuating their residence halls, stocking up on provisions at on-campus stores and downloading Zoom on their laptops.

The COVID-19 pandemic had just begun to sweep the nation. At the time Loyola students were beginning to evacuate campus March 12, just 1,629 COVID-19 cases had been reported in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It’s been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic started and the country has now seen more than 29 million reported cases of the virus, data from the CDC shows.

The Phoenix compiled coverage from March 2020 and spoke to students and professors about how their lives have changed since then.

Loyola Moves to Online Classes, Students Have 1 Week to Leave Residence Halls as COVID-19 Fear Grows

March 12, 2020

For many students, the threat of COVID-19 became real March 12, 2020. That’s when the university sent out an email to the Loyola community announcing students had one week, until March 19, to pack up and move out of their residence halls.

When the announcement was made, the state had 25 reported cases of COVID-19. About a year later, more than 1.2 million Illinoisans have reportedly been infected with the virus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).

The email also announced the move to entirely online classes and that Loyola students abroad were headed back to the U.S.

Hannah Loeschorn, a current Loyola senior, was a junior at the time and she was sent home from her abroad program at Loyola’s John Felice Rome Center.

“I remember when I first saw the email, I was in total disbelief,” Loeschorn, 22, told The Phoenix in March 2021. “I was in shock, because, the whole COVID-19 pandemic, no one foresaw it turning into what it is today.”

Loeschorn said she watched as the weeks turned into months, and now, more than a year of the pandemic. Now, she's just hoping she will be able to make up for some of the missed travel after she graduates in May.

Later in the year, Loyola announced it would suspend all study abroad through spring 2021. This means while students such as Loeschorn had their abroad experiences cut short, others, such as Loyola junior Gillian Ward wouldn’t be able to go at all.

A photo of Gillian Ward she provided to The Phoenix.

Ward had planned on studying abroad during spring 2021, but said she came to the realization sometime over the summer that her plan wouldn’t be possible — Loyola affirmed her worries when they announced the program's extended suspension Oct. 1, 2020.

Ward said she won’t be able to study abroad while in college as it doesn’t fit in with her academic schedule next year, and she worries the experience won’t be the same.

“It’s the age old, ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone,’” Ward said.

Loyola’s Move Out Comes Early In Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic

March 16, 2020

Days after Loyola announced students would have to head home, the move-out process began.

Loyola students living in the dorms were instructed to gather their belongings and evacuate by March 19, 2020.

Last year, The Phoenix spoke to David Binkley, a current Loyola sophomore, as he prepared to leave his first-year dorm in Mertz Hall behind and head home to Dixon, Illinois.

“It’s very sad because you have to say bye to everyone so suddenly,” Binkley told The Phoenix in March 2020. “I’ve cried like 10 times. It’s hard to watch everyone go one by one.”

In a follow-up interview a year later, Binkley said he was able to keep in touch with the friends he made during his first year of college through the pandemic through Zoom and phone calls. When he returned to Chicago for the spring 2021 semester he said it was a “relief” to still have those connections.

“Whenever times are tough they help me get through it through Zoom calls,” Binkley, 20, said.

Binkley, who’s studying secondary education and history, said he’s looking forward to some sense of normalcy to return as dropping COVID-19 rates and increasing vaccinations create a light at the end of the tunnel.

“I’ll never get those last couple of months of freshman year and that whole first semester of sophomore year — you can’t get that back,” Binkley said. “But you can make it up through experiences you have in the future.”

Loyola Students Stock Up Before Moving Out

March 16, 2020

Shortly after Loyola announced campus closures, students rushed to on-campus convenience stores to buy snacks and supplies. At the time, students weren’t sure if they’d be able to keep their dining dollars — the on-campus spending money included in meal plans — for future semesters.

Adam Banlasan, a junior at the time, was interviewed by The Phoenix during his first of several trips to Damen Food Court where he spent his remaining dining dollars on an entire moving cart of snacks and candy.

“It was quite an adventure getting all that home,” Banlasan told The Phoenix a year later. “I’m willing to admit it does seem a little silly in retrospect, but at the same time having all those goodies made it easier to get through the first few months of quarantine.”

When Loyola’s campuses closed, Banlasan — who’s now a senior and still majoring in neuroscience — moved back in with his parents near the Illinois-Wisconsin border where he’s been taking online classes since. He said it’s difficult to reflect on all that’s happened since last year.

“I lost access to all the on-campus resources I used to have in person,” Banlasan said. “I’ve had to improvise a lot to make up for that and make do with the amount of time I have to talk to professors. The lack of face-to-face conversation has been an obstacle because things just aren’t the same over video calls.”
Loyola students took to Damen Food Court and other on-campus shops to spend their remaining dining dollars before the university announced students would be able to use the remaining funds next semester.

Loyola Restricts Athletics Attendance Due to Coronavirus Concerns

March 11, 2020

Loyola Cancels Spring Sports Due to Coronavirus

March 12, 2020

Loyola Athletics announced March 11, 2020 that fans wouldn’t be able to attend the remainder of the games scheduled for the spring 2020 season.

Then, the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) announced March 12, 2020 it was canceling the women’s basketball conference tournament — just three hours before Loyola was set to tip-off in Moline, Illinois — and suspending spring sports through March 30, 2020.

A few hours later on the night of March 12, 2020, the NCAA canceled spring athletics championships and Loyola canceled the remainder of its spring season. At the time, Loyola was just the second school in the MVC to cancel the rest of its spring slate, but the conference eventually announced the cancelation of all spring sports the next day.

The abrupt cancellation brought about an extended period without any Loyola sports. After the men’s and women’s golf teams finished their respective tournaments March 10, 2020, there wasn’t another Loyola Athletics event until women’s basketball opened its 2020-21 season on the road against Chicago State University Nov. 28.

While sports have returned, fans still aren’t allowed at any Loyola-hosted sporting events. Although Loyola Athletics has pumped in artificial crowd noise at games, a real-life, boisterous crowd hasn’t filled Gentile Arena since women’s basketball’s senior day March 1, 2020.

March 17, 2020: Campus Buildings Close in Midst of COVID-19 Outbreak

The Byline: Disruptions Due to Coronavirus

March 18, 2020

On what would be The Phoenix’s last in-person production night for over a year, several members of The Phoenix staff sat down in the School of Communication studio to record an episode of the paper’s news podcast, The Byline.

News Editor Madison Savedra, former Editor-in-Chief Mary Norkol and former Arts and Entertainment Editor Mary Grace Ritter discussed the rapidly changing state of the COVID-19 and how the outbreak was already impacting Loyola.

At the time, it hadn’t even been a week since Loyola moved classes online, but as Ritter put it, “I feel like I have lived through at least a month’s worth of experiences.”

On March 18, the date of recording, the IDPH reported a total of 228 COVID-19 cases in the state. Nearly a year later, the state has logged over 1.2 million cases and counting.

The three reflected on the changes COVID-19 had already brought and what challenges might come down the road for local businesses and the entertainment industry to Loyola classes and graduation. They also remarked on how quiet campus felt.

“I think like if you look at Loyola as just one little snippet into the rest of the world, I think this is kind of what’s happening at least all over the U.S. as things get worse here,” Norkol said.

During the week students were preparing to leave campus, The Phoenix spoke to several as part of the "Student Voices" series. Published March 16, 2020, here's what some Loyola students had to say about the moment:

Loyola Fine Arts Department Cancels Spring Programming, Restricts Studio Access

March 18, 2020

As students and professors adapted to new routines, Loyola’s art community had to quickly make adjustments as well.

The Department of Fine and Performing Arts (DFPA) restricted student studio access and canceled or postponed its planned programming due to COVID-19’s spread, The Phoenix reported March 18, 2020. At the time, several DFPA students described the limitations of online learning and working from home as art students.

DFPA’s Director of Fine Arts, Rafael Vera, reflected on a year ago when the department was adjusting to the pandemic.

Without the usual studios and resources, students — especially those working on large pieces — had to get creative with their artwork.

“Art is about problem solving,” Vera said. “And that was a problem that they had to solve and it became part of their education.”

Though he remembered that time as “overwhelming, frustrating, nerve wracking," he said he was proud of how students adapted.

“We also had to accept the fact that students needed our support more than anything else and that we knew that they were having a hard time not just with their projects or the lack of space but they were having a hard time because it was a hard time — for all of us,” he said.

Now, Vera said many students have embraced this added challenge of making art at home and students and faculty are getting more comfortable with online learning.

Loyola Student Tests Positive for COVID-19, Officials Confirm

March 21, 2020

Loyola students received news March 21 that one of their own had tested positive for COVID-19. This was the first reported case of the virus in the Loyola community. The student had not been on campus in the 14 days prior to the announcement, and was recuperating in isolation at home, officials said.

Starting in July, Loyola began tracking all data from university-provided tests in its COVID-19 Testing Dashboard. The school has reported a total of 456 confirmed cases from July 24 to March 17. It has conducted 57,487 total tests in that same period, with the test positivity rate currently sitting at 0.81 percent as of publication.

A screenshot of the university's coronavirus dashboard as of March 17, 2021.

Professors Concerned About Students Well-Being as Classes Move Online

March 25, 2020

Phoenix reporters spoke with Loyola professors in late March about how they saw the sudden move to online classes as a result of COVID-19. Several professors shared what was on their minds, including worries about student wellbeing and engagement, and the learning curve of teaching online classes.

Some said they were planning on pre-recording lectures to accommodate large class sizes and others were preparing to teach on Zoom.

Patricia Lamberti, director of Loyola’s multimedia journalism program, was interviewed for the story. At the time, she said the School of Communication was adjusting coursework so students could still meet learning objectives while staying safe.

Now, Lamberti said, “it's still a scary time but I think we’re more confident.”

Despite the adjustment, she said she has found some value in the transition to online learning.

“I don’t think we worked out all the kinks of online education but I think we worked out a lot of them and I think we learned a lot,” Lamberti said. “One thing that makes me happy is there will always be a place for online education in the future.”

Another benefit, according to Lamberti, is journalism students have adapted to online methods in tandem with the industry itself.

“I’m glad that our students were forced to adapt at the same pace as working professionals,” she said.

Reflecting on the past year, Lamberti praised students’ ability to adapt.

“I think anyone who went to college during ‘year Covid’… is going to be able to say to potential employers, ‘I adapted really quick, really fast to a brave new world, and that’s not something you can list definitely under your skills maybe on your resume but it’s so true — how quickly you learned and how quickly you survived it.”

Photo credits in order of appearance: Students in hazmat suits (Zack Miller), Empty Damen (Zack Miller), Hannah Loeschorn Abroad (Hannah Loeschorn), Gillian Ward (Gillian Ward), David Binkley (David Binkley), Students Buying Food Before Moveout (Zack Miller), Empty Campus (Zack Miller), COVID-19 Cases Graphic (Katie Anthony), Fine Arts Senior Exhibition (Elle Jacobsen), Loyola Athletics (Zack Miller); Student Voices Video (Molly Gaglione, Adrian Nevarez, Zack Miller) SOC (Alexa Galas), COVID-19 Dashboard (Loyola University Chicago), Lake Shore Campus Stock Photos (Zack Miller), Damen Statue (Zack Miller)

Phoenix news editors Madison Savedra and Kayleigh Padar, Assistant News Editor Katie Anthony, Managing Editor Jane Miller and Editor-in-Chief Mary Chappell contributed reporting.