Just months shy of the 3-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stony Brook University has lifted all COVID restrictions. The exception was an advisory COVID test — that didn’t need to be submitted to any health portal — before returning to campus this semester. The enforcement of COVID policies including masks and social distancing has become a thing of the past. The campus community once relied on SBU’s COVID information dashboard to stay up to date on the number of cases springing up on campus. However, since students are no longer required to take weekly tests, the dashboard has been discontinued

President Joe Biden made headlines in September after he was asked about the COVID-19 pandemic during an interview with 60 Minutes. As they walked through the first Detroit auto show in 3 years, CBS reporter Scott Pelley asked him if he thought the pandemic had reached its end. 

“The pandemic is over,” Biden said. “We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it.”

Some healthcare professionals are disagreeing with Biden’s statements, and many are considering his words irresponsible and insensitive. However, Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, says that Biden’s statement was accurate. 

“He is differentiating between pandemic and endemic, which is where we are now,” Nachman explained. “It means that COVID is here to stay, and we have the tools needed to contain and treat [it].” 

According to The New York Times’ map and case count, the daily amount of reported COVID cases have been on a visible decline since August. The tracker states that “fewer than 60,000 cases are announced each day nationwide, the lowest level since April.” However, this data is incomplete, considering a large number of people use at-home rapid tests and do not necessarily report positive results to their local health agencies.

The death rate continues to fall as well, but an average of about 285 people are still dying in the United States on a daily basis. Dr. Nachman considers treatments with monoclonals or antivirals “big wins” when it comes to preventing serious illness and death. 

“I think vaccines play a big part in staying well, along with eating and sleeping and in general taking care of yourself,” Dr. Nachman said. 

Students at Stony Brook University share a wide range of feelings on COVID. A small number of students and staff members can be seen wearing masks, while others have no fear of sitting shoulder to shoulder in large lecture halls, or on the bleachers at sporting events. 

SBU master’s student Nicole Niemic takes the stance that, from what she’s seen, the pandemic isn’t over. 

“I don’t think it is since cases are still very high, I think the lockdown portion of the pandemic is over,” she said.

Niemic also noted that, from the student perspective, COVID resources on campus aren’t as obvious as they were a year ago. For example, Stony Brook has removed COVID isolation temporary housing. If a roommate or suitemate were to contract COVID, they would have to isolate in their initial living area, putting others at risk. 

“I don’t think that campus feels dirtier,” Niemic said. “But I think people have gotten a little lazier at taking precautions against COVID.” 

Senior Matt Venezia shares a similar sentiment. 

“Obviously things are different than 2 years ago and the virus is much less novel and deadly, but that doesn’t mean the pandemic has ended,” he said. 

However, Venezia recalls feeling taken care of when one of his suitemates reported that they had contracted COVID. 

“The university delivered rapid tests to our door,” he said. “I think enough is being done, again because the virus has diminished in severity.” 

Dr. Nachman reminds students to remain vigilant of their health status, regardless of whether what they are feeling aligns with COVID symptoms. She still advises mask-wearing and self-isolation if students begin feeling under the weather. 

“I really don’t want to get [the] flu or RSV from you just as much as I don’t want to get COVID from you,” she said. 

Stony Brook Student Health Services no longer provides PCR testing to students on campus, however, they do offer rapid test kits to those who have been exposed. Additionally, their website lists resources for students with vaccination and testing information as well as access to updated COVID Protocols.

It remains uncertain whether or not the campus will experience a surge in cases as the colder weather forces people indoors. The importance of vaccines remains — Suffolk County has a 78% vaccination rate, but nationally, only 11.3% have received the updated booster that prevents more transmissible variants. You can find your nearest vaccine site here.

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