Timothy SheahanTimothy Sheahan is an assistant professor in the epidemiology department within the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health with a research background in emerging viral diseases and related therapeutics. Sheahan said COVID-19 research has generally shifted from developing treatments in the hospital to addressing a "post acute disease world."

“The shift in the use of therapeutics to try and treat people early to prevent long-term disease is, I think, a new focus in that kind of arena,” Sheahan said. “It wasn't even something that really would have been considered early on in the pandemic, just because there was so much acute severe disease out there.”

As for future steps, Sheahan said the virus is never going away and will always be dynamic and changing over time. 

Mackenzie Roche, a second-year law student at UNC, said she got COVID-19 twice and thinks the virus is a bigger issue than illnesses like the common cold or flu because of inconsistent messaging regarding its long-term effects. 

“We have more research coming out that there are long-term effects and long COVID is impacting people,” Roche said. “I definitely think it's more than the flu, especially because there's inconsistent messaging about how often you're supposed to get the booster.”

While Roche said they do not feel any obvious long-term effects from COVID-19, she said it may be harder for students to feel comfortable asking for accommodations and time off due to the University’s announcement that it will treat positive COVID-19 test results similarly to other respiratory or gastrointestinal illnesses, effective Aug. 21.

In the same statement, the University also announced that COVID-related absences would no longer be University-approved.

Rather than ignoring its presence, Roche saidincreasing messaging about COVID-19 symptoms, isolation and long COVID would be a better route for scientific leaders to take. 

“I understand we do have to get back to normal in a sense,” Roche said. “But that normal doesn’t have to look exactly like what pre-COVID looks like. It can look new.”

@dailytarheel | [email protected]

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