Central Pennsylvania residents reflect on two years of the COVID-19 pandemic
When the coronavirus reached central Pennsylvania, it left streets and restaurants empty, people jobless and faces half-covered.
This month marks two years since the United States declared the coronavirus a nationwide pandemic. Many people remember the initial emotions when hearing about the virus and how it was spreading.
"The fear factor was high," said State College resident Dori Miller.
She found out her job shut down due to the pandemic on her birthday that year. She spent the day driving to New York to bring her son home.
Miller was one of many people to get vaccinated when they became available a little more than a year ago. But multiple changes to masking guidance and vaccine information have led her to mistrust the CDC and the government.
"I just tune out now. I'm not getting any more immunizations. I don't trust anyone in the government," said Miller.
She feels bad for the people have underlying conditions, which makes COVID more dangerous for them.
"I have a friend whose son has Cystic Fibrosis. And she keeps him home, but she stays home with him because it's from the lungs and apparently that's where it attacks basically is the lungs," said Miller. "For a lot of people they're still not the same, but I choose to live. I want to live life and not be hunkered down out of fear."
Many people are returning to their old lives now that positivity rates have declined and vaccines are more readily available. A lot of people are more than ready for that.
On March 4, Penn State announced that mask mandates would be dropped everywhere except in "classrooms, labs and other academic and creative spaces." On Tuesday, they announced masks would no longer required everywhere starting on Wednesday.
On a recent weekend, Lancaster resident Olivia Laurence visited Penn State with her daughter, who's a prospective student. Laurence said it's good for students that things are starting to get back to normal.
"I feel like kids have missed out on a lot of things the past few years. So I'm hopeful that when she goes away next year, things will be back to normal and there will be more activities and opportunities to keep the kids more engaged and just feel like they're not missing out on the whole college experience," said Laurence.
According to Penn State's COVID-19 dashboard, on the University Park campus 92% of students and more than 86% of employees are fully vaccinated. More than 63% of Centre County is fully vaccinated and positivity rates have been trending downward since the winter Omicron spike.
Divine Lipscomb is an adult Penn State student and recently became a member of the State College Borough Council. He said the pandemic led the government to take action in ways it had not in the past.
"The stresses of being a student, the stresses of being a minority, the stresses of poverty," said Lipscomb. "We've literally watched the world, at least here in the United States collectively experience some level of poverty where the government had to intervene to make sure that people ate. I hope that post COVID we start to look at these things."
He said he still takes precautions against the virus, but is happy to see life getting a step closer to normal.