What happened to the pandemic? Students reflect on current COVID-19 climate


It is roughly three years after COVID-19 shut down the world. Cases of the virus still persist, but the public’s attention has slowly shifted away.

Almost three years after the initial shock of COVID-19 swept across the globe, there has been a noticeable change in individuals’ actions and attitudes regarding the virus.

Despite the lifting of lockdowns and removal of mask mandates, many people continued to look at COVID-19 with great trepidation after its initial spread.

In recent months, however, a large number of students and staff members at Iowa State have become more relaxed with their habits around COVID-19.

“Just like the general public, everyone [on campus] has a different comfort level and different opinions,” Kristen Clark, the university public health coordinator at Iowa State, said. “What I see folks doing is starting to get more comfortable navigating what they need to do for themselves.”

Iowa State created Clark’s position just over a year ago in a response to the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19. Clark serves as a part of the university’s student wellness team, which comprises both students and professional staff members aimed at serving the ISU community in various capacities.

Clark has observed changes taking place at both the national and local level as COVID-19 becomes more endemic, or regularly occurring. For example, contact tracing was once a prevalent part of managing the virus and its spread, but health experts now rely less on this practice.

One way the Thielen Student Health Center continues to learn about and monitor COVID-19 is by attending monthly calls held by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, Thielen continues to offer daily testing for COVID-19.

“It’s still important,” Clark said. “Even though we’re seeing it shift to a new stage, it will be with us for life, probably.”

Many students share thoughts similar to Clark’s when it comes to COVID-19. Ella Godfrey, a senior studying software engineering, has noticed an incremental adjustment in the lives of the general public, as well as in her personal life. She attributes this change to a general increase of knowledge on the topic.

“I’m a little less concerned than I was just because I’ve learned more about it,” Godfrey said. “It’s just kind of been gradual for me as I’ve learned more.”

Rosy Banda, a junior majoring in management information systems, has observed this same societal shift.

“I think it’s becoming normalized,” Banda said. “I do think that’s still a concern, of course, but people are just becoming accustomed to it. I feel like a lot more people are vaccinated, so they’re not really as worried.”

Although Banda attributes this lessened worry to an increased number of people with COVID-19 vaccinations, she acknowledges there are some lingering concerns for many individuals.

As someone with a close relative who is immunocompromised, Banda recognizes this continued need for care.

“We don’t know the full effects that are going to happen,” Banda said. “It is kind of worrying that we’re not taking that seriously because there are still people that are immunocompromised, but it is good to see it being normalized, talked about and really sharing education about it.”

Having had COVID-19 twice despite receiving the vaccinations, Muhammad Azhan, a graduate student studying chemistry, understands the impact COVID-19 can have on one’s body. After experiencing this firsthand, he uses his discretion, approaching COVID-19 with a watchful eye.

“There’s this idea that there is no more COVID now, which is not true in my opinion,” Azhan said. “It’s going to take some time to…have this shift in mindset that we need to be careful.”

In addition to his studies, Azhan is a teaching assistant at Iowa State University. By serving in this role, he has gained an additional perspective on the topic, realizing that many students may feel pressure to attend class despite being sick.

“It’s important to have this discussion about, ‘Okay, so if you’re not feeling good, it’s okay to take a break,’”Azhan said.

The best ways for people to continue protecting themselves and others include thoroughly washing your hands, staying home if you are sick and considering getting tested if you do not feel well, according to Clark.

Additional information about COVID-19 and other illnesses can be found on the ISU public health website.