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The Antelope

The Antelope

The Antelope

2021-22: the year COVID-19 ‘disappeared’

Woman wearing mask

At this time of year, students are scurrying between classes and construction projects, studying in the library, socializing in the Nebraskan Student Union and exhausting the grass with spikeball games.

Two years ago, this was not the case. 

A menacing beast awakened. And that beast, which ravaged the world and consumed the lives of millions, was COVID-19.

When COVID-19 reared its ugly head in 2020, UNK students were sent home to attend class via Zoom. The trail of emails from Student Health and UNK Communications snaked through our inboxes like a thorny tail. Its claws ripped away our loved ones, our sense of security and two years of our traditional college experience. 

We used COVID-19 tests, masks, plastic barriers and Zoom screens to shield us from the monster’s jowls. The ominous titan caused a political and societal divide as leaders strategized to counter its next attack. Healthcare workers went to war for nations and worked tirelessly on the pandemic’s frontlines.

The beast’s presence faded significantly throughout the 2021-22 school year.

The mask mandate was lifted mid-summer for UNK employees and continued into Blue Gold Welcome Week. In the fall, a rather long email chain developed between professors as to whether masks should be enforced in classrooms. 

The university’s solution to this debate was a “temporary” mask mandate mid-September, which was extended for another week after the presumed deadline. 

The J-term originated as an opportunity for students to quarantine and relieve campus COVID-19 numbers before returning from Christmas break. The tradition was carried on to this year as well, with a shortened spring break. 

The “new normal” has become abnormal. If a UNK student time-traveled from 2019 to 2022, perhaps they would have never known that the pandemic happened.

Since then, hope has returned to campus, making COVID-19 feel like a bad dream. 

Has the beast been slain or is it merely asleep? For many, COVID-19 is still very much alive, haunting especially those with auto-immune diseases. 

Perhaps its relevance was buried by more prominent news events, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Or maybe Kearney is a small town, on an island far away from the densely-populated communities. It could be that the COVID-19 vaccines were the most effective weapon.

Most likely, the creature’s disappearance was due to all of these factors and more.

In this time of peace, we encourage Lopers to attend campus events and cherish their in-person classes, even with finals looming ahead. Fewer people are wearing masks, so use this opportunity to smile at one another. We must pull ourselves away from social media and toward genuine moments with colleagues, friends and family. 

The Antelope has been covering the beast’s every move since it cast a shadow over 2020. We wish we could say this is our last editorial covering COVID-19, but we cannot promise such a thought. 

The scars left behind by the pandemic will last for generations to come.

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