The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday August 11th

Two years of COVID-19: A look back on UNC student experiences

Chapter 1: Intro

"Coronavirus: Why you should be watching"

That was the headline on The Daily Tar Heel's first article on coronavirus — an editorial published on Jan. 23, 2020.

At the time, the Editorial Board said the chances of a student contracting coronavirus were close to zero, but that we should be paying attention to it.

On March 11, 2020, the University announced an extended spring break and a move to indefinite remote instruction. Remote instruction continued through the following semester — with the exception of a few optimistic days of in-person classes in August 2020.

But about a week after UNC students returned for class, on Aug. 16, the DTH published another editorial after the University reported four COVID-19 clusters on and around campus.

This one had the headline "We all saw this coming," but is more commonly known as the "clusterfuck" editorial.

Shortly thereafter, UNC announced the closure of campus and a pivot back to remote learning. There were 505 positive COVID-19 cases among students the week campus shut down.

Since then, UNC students have experienced a mixture of virtual and in-person learning as the University has adjusted back to its "normal" campus life.


But even this spring, with the surging omicron variant of COVID-19, UNC epidemiologists have projected a peak of cases 14 to 25 days after the start of the semester, with 850 to 1,650 cases per day.

Audrey Pettifor, a professor of epidemiology in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, worked on the document, which was seen by UNC administration.

“It was shocking when we saw those numbers,” Pettifor said. “And I think we're still all processing. I mean, I feel like just from my own social network, it used to be like one person removed had COVID, or I knew one person, and now it's like — yesterday, I was on a call, and somebody on every single Zoom call was recovering from COVID.”

With the spring semester just underway, concerns about in-person and online classes and rising COVID-19 cases are still central to campus, as they have been since March 2020.

From the class of 2021 to 2025, The Daily Tar Heel spoke to UNC students who reflected on their experiences throughout the last two years of the pandemic.

Click here to read the next part, Chapter 2: '‘That’s what the rest of your face looks like?’

Click below to navigate to other parts of the series.



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