Hey, college kid... unpack those bags! If there was ever a year to skip the massive Thanksgiving celebration, 2020 is obviously the year. As Coronavirus cases surge across the country medical experts and government officials have pleaded with you to stand down and not potentially expose grandma and grandpa to COVID-19.
But for many those pleadings will fall on deaf ears. Perhaps it's a longing to be with relatives you only see once a year. Maybe it's a sense of family obligation. Or maybe you don't want to hear the guilt trip your family will lay on you for not showing up. But one way or the other... you're going.
College students from across the country are already starting to pack up their belongings for next week's trek. For many it will be their first jaunt home since the school semester began. So since you're going anyway... let's try not to pass Uncle Earl a serving of the Rona along with the mashed potatoes and gravy.
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Here are a couple of safety measures to keep you and your loved ones safe over the holidays.
Get Tested Before You Travel
Sounds obvious, right? But sometimes we overlook the obvious. Getting tested before you travel to see your family is one of best ways to safeguard against infecting them, says Dr. Jake Deutsch, clinical director of Cure Urgent Care in New York City.
"If you've been at college or around a number of people who would presumably be asymptomatic, you need the higher degree of accuracy a PCR (nasal swab) test. That's the best way to ensure there was no asymptomatic infection that could potentially be spread to your elderly family members," he says.
Don't Have a False Sense of Security Just Because It's Family
It's natural to have a sense of security when you're surrounded by family over the holidays. But having a false sense of security is not only foolish, but potentially deadly.
"People feel familiar with family so they think there's nothing to worry about," says Deutsch. "But there's no circumstance where people should be gathering without masks without the confirmation of testing." So that just may mean you're not going to have that turkey dinner you had hoped for.
"If you need to give a hug, which is obviously so important in our interactions with family members, make sure that you're wearing masks," says Deutsch, who adds he's seen a "significant failure" to adhere to this simple policy among younger adults... and that lapse in judgement could have devastating consequences around the holidays.
Cut Back on the Holiday Cheer
For many the stress of being surrounded by family is all the reason needed to imbibe a little more than usual. But any thought of social distancing is likely to go out the window once you've had one too many cocktails of holiday cheer. Keep your drinking under control.
Can it with the Politics
Good advice in almost all circumstances. If you're like most families you've got that one crazy uncle who's politics are completely off the cliff. But this year even more than most the political talk is likely to get heated. Masks will be lowered. Voices will be raised. Spittle will fly. Give everyone a break and potentially save a life...leave the "red" state and "blue" state talk at the door.
When You Go Back to School.... Get Tested Again and Quarantine if You Can
If you're a college student the idea of self-quarantining when you go back to school probably isn't high on your list of fun things to do. Do it anyway.
According to NBC News many colleges and universities across the country are taking steps to prevent a spike once students return from Thanksgiving break.
The University of Connecticut, the University of California, Berkeley, and New York's SUNY colleges are among those schools that will hold in-person classes up until Thanksgiving break. They will then transition to remote learning so students won't be returning to campus until the spring term. Boston University asked students who do travel home during the break to stay there and complete the remainder of the semester online.
"Most colleges have some sort of screening process to test people randomly so hopefully you're adhering to that then continuing to use the protective devices that we know work," says Deutsch.
So bottom line.. if you're heading home, be smart. Take precautions. Wear a mask when you can. You don't want your Thanksgiving cheer to turn into a long misery come Christmas.