With the COVID-19 pandemic coming up on its one year anniversary, the United States has faced a devastating number of lives lost, a fallen economy and a wave of financial insecurity. Not to mention a nail-biting presidential election which came coupled with both joy and civil unrest.

To say this past year hasn’t taken a toll on the American public — and the rest of the world for that matter — is to undermine the gravity of what this pandemic has cost so many. As the one-year anniversary approaches, however, a new wave of hope seems to be rolling in with it.

In the state of Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers announced March 5 one million Wisconsinites have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I’m so incredibly proud of our state and deeply grateful to every single Wisconsinite who has worked tirelessly to make this possible,” Evers said.

The University of Wisconsin has also seen a significant decrease in positive COVID-19 results among students and faculty, especially when compared to the extreme spike the campus saw back in September. A spike led to increased regulations and a complete lock-down of both campus buildings and two freshman dorms, Sellery and Witte.

The campus reported the percentage of positive test results is down to 0.2% compared to the 0.4% it saw only seven days ago. Since Feb. 25, only 193 university students and facilities members tested positive out of more than 46,000 tests.

Most importantly, however, is the decision made by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 10 to pass President Biden’s American Rescue Plan — a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief fund. The decision was made early on Wednesday morning, following a 220-210 vote. President Biden is expected to sign it into law this upcoming Friday.

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While this is a significant step forward for President Biden and his team, it makes us ask — What does this relief package entail and will it actually help?

The answer to the latter is yes. President Biden’s relief package will not only help, it will make a remarkable impact on the American population. It will go down as “historic,” with $1.9 trillion allocated specifically to aid in COVID-19 relief and vaccine distribution.

The relief package will extend unemployment benefits and deliver $1,400 stimulus checks to the American public along with billions for schools, colleges and businesses to reopen. Additionally, it will expand aid to the state, local and tribal governments, provide federal subsidies for health insurance and increase assistance for housing and food.

The most important factor of the relief fund is the part of the relief package the government will allocate to specifically increase vaccine distribution and testing. Funding comes with Biden’s eager plan to provide doses for “every adult in America” by the end of May.

“There is [a] light at the end of this dark tunnel of [this] last year,” President Biden said.

Vaccine distribution is that light. With the now three COVID-19 vaccines available for the general public — including the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine — it seems certain sometime in the near future, the American public will receive their vaccines. And the relief package is the only way to make that happen.

While not all may agree with the House of Representative’s decision, it can’t be denied the relief package coupled with vaccine roll-out is the only way America will ever survive this pandemic and come out on the other side. It’s the only way to keep businesses afloat as the economy begins to slowly re-open in full-force.

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With an increasing political divide ever-present throughout this past year, the opinions surrounding the virus and vaccines have only increased the hardships of this year-long pandemic. While some states are doing anything they can to help their citizens, other states are ignoring the obvious science of the matter.

The only way we as a county will ever return to “normal” is with the help of Biden’s American Rescue Plan. To vaccinate all means at some point in the future, the process of reopening the country will take place. And the process of returning to “normal” will only follow.

This relief package will give states the time they need to make the process happen. Wisconsin representatives believe Biden’s relief plan will buy the state and its economy more time to stay afloat, more time to vaccinate and more time to form some kind of cooperation or compromise between Gov. Evers and the Republican-led state legislature.

It will help Wisconsin “meet the urgency of the moment,” as U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, said.

The urgency of the moment can only be met if Wisconsin citizens — and specifically UW students — continue in their efforts to follow regulations, not let their guard down and most importantly, not assume victory is inevitable.

While the state of Wisconsin may have reached 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccinations, this doesn’t mean state numbers will not rise again. Continuing to follow the state, county and school-wide regulations will ensure this relief package will actually work to vaccinate all adult Wisconsinites by the end of May, hopefully.

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It is essential for UW students to continue their actions, as it is clear something is working, with positive test results down to 0.2% campus-wide. Not engaging in activities like the darties seen on Lake Mendota in early March is one way to ensure the decrease continues, as the irresponsible actions of those who attended will surely bring repercussions for all.

With nationwide rates down and vaccine distribution on the rise, the national relief fund will not only aid in continuing this progress but will ensure the government meets the needs of the American public as the process begins.

“While we see a light at the end of the tunnel now that people are starting to get inoculated … we don’t know how long that tunnel is yet,” U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) said. “This COVID package, because of the urgency and the speed, certainly isn’t a perfect response to everything that we must address, but it’s a direct response to what we’ve been hearing from people back home in Wisconsin.”

Kayla Bell ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science and journalism.