Opinion | Reflections on the end of the COVID-19 pandemic

When the state didn’t provide any help, Iowans banded together to help one another.


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Person holding a cloth face mask.

Shahab Khan, Opinions Columnist

The past few months in Iowa have been marked by the triumphant return of pre-pandemic normalcy.

People are now going to eat with their friends and family for the first time in over a year. The Zoom calls that once dominated our learning environment are diminishing. Those masks that became an integral part of our daily attire are mostly no longer required.

All of this would not have happened without the sacrifices and strides made by hospitals, scientists, private corporations, and regular Iowans.

During the fall and winter months when COVID-19 was raging through the Hawkeye State, it would’ve be safe to say that the situation was chaotic. Cases peaked in November as thousands of people tested positive every day and hundreds were dying by the week.

Hospitals were overrun as ICU beds, and staff were in short supply.

In fact, as my father, a cardiologist in Dubuque, explained to me, one of the hidden tragedies of the pandemic was that many patients who were in need of critical care lost their lives because hospitals did not have enough space to treat them.

Our state government wasn’t providing any help as Gov. Kim Reynolds continued to delay instituting a mask mandate that likely would have saved thousands of lives. Instead, she played politics, taking her cues from a deranged president who insinuated that injecting disinfectant  would cure patients of COVID-19.

The decadence illuminated during these times turned many of those I knew into cynics about the American project. However, where state governments failed, Iowans, the federal government, and companies rose to the occasion.

For example, the massive spending packages passed by Congress lifted millions of Americans out of poverty.

Next, thanks to the revolutionary breakthrough with mRNA vaccines, biotechnology companies such as Pfizer and Moderna developed incredibly effective COVID-19 vaccines in record time.

Finally, and most importantly, Iowans took it upon themselves to help other Iowans. A story etched into my memory was when a University of Iowa professor offered to cook Thanksgiving meals for students who needed them.

In addition, the role that the University of Iowa Hospital played in battling COVID-19 cannot be understated as doctors and nurses worked tirelessly to treat 1,800 patients

I once had a conversation with a wise man who reminded me how easy it is to develop a nihilistic outlook on the state of the world when things do not play out according to plan. This pandemic was the epitome of that saying.

Yet, despite all of the death that surrounded us, it seemed to me that Iowans never lost hope. That no matter what unintended obstacles we face, we would overcome them.

And overcome them, we did.

Iowa is one of the most vaccinated states in the country as 87.31 percent of doses have been administered. As a result, cases have plummeted and deaths from the virus are now a rarity.

Just this past week, as I observed businesses reopen and families reunite, I was reminded about a Vince Lombardi quote that encapsulates the American ethos: “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

In other words, when faced with difficult situations, Iowans have continuously risen to meet the challenge and come back stronger, wiser, and better, despite the lack of aid from the state government. 

That is what makes me proud to be an Iowan.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.