I can’t believe we are already nearing the end of this semester for college. A huge shout-out to the college students who are showing such grit, resilience, and love for your fellow neighbors on top of studying for your finals and trying to maintain some sort of social life (Zoom 2am study meetings are awesome, I hear). Many of you are headed home soon and you’re wondering how to do that safely.
I want to highlight two really great articles that gives a summary of how to navigate going home for the holiday break. I’ll link to the full articles below, but here’s a few takeaways.
1. Find the date you are going home and calculate backwards 14 days – So, if you plan on going home on December 1st, start a strict quarantine 14 days prior. Strict means strict. 😉 No bars, no parties, no hang-outs, wear a mask, distancing, 2am zoom study-calls instead of indoors study groups, etc.
2. Get tested before you leave school – Many universities are offering free testing to students before they go home. Take advantage of that. If they don’t, many public health departments and cities are offering free testing. If you want to find a free testing site in your area, go here: https://www.hhs.gov/coronavirus/community-based-testing-sites/index.html
3. If you have a negative test, you can still get COVID before you go home. So, be really diligent on wearing a mask, distancing, and tightening your social bubble before going home.
4. Get tested again when you return home – Remember that not all tests are the same. PCR tests are the gold standard with VERY few false positives. I wouldn’t recommend rapid tests since they are not as accurate. I would also not recommend antibody testing – this measures past infections, not current ones.
5. Being super cautious right now (college students, I’m talking to you) is really important to protect your family members. With cases surging in most areas right now, it’s important to keep first things first – you want to spend the holidays with your family and keep them safe – so, be really vigilant in your mask-wearing, distancing, saying no to get-togethers/parties, don’t eat indoors or go to bars, etc.
6. When the students get home, it’s a good idea to have them wear a mask for the first few days – especially around high-risk family members. You might even consider having family get-togethers only outdoors and 14 days after your college student gets home.
7. If your student has to go back after Thanksgiving (some universities are going fully online after Thanksgiving), it is recommended they stay put at college until the longer holiday break in December.
8. If your student feels unwell at all, isolate immediately. If they feel unwell prior to coming home, isolate at college until they can be tested. COVID-19 can be pretty mild in younger adults and be confused with thinking “I just have a little cold or this is just allergies”.
Right now, I would err on the side of caution if your college students feel unwell.
-Friendly neighbor epidemiologist (and, Sic ’em bears to all of my BU students and families!)
American College Health Association recommendations: https://www.acha.org/documents/Resources/COVID_19/ACHA_Brief_Considerations_for_IHEs_as_Students_Return_Home_10.29.2020.pdf
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