Days after the federal government warned against Thanksgiving travel, college students will be fanning out across the U.S. Every itinerary raises risks somewhere.
With Covid rates at their highest ever, most schools are telling students to return home — and stay. But they aren’t requiring testing or quarantining to prevent them from bringing the virus home to mom and dad. A handful are even allowing them to return to campus after the break.
The movement of students, already thought to have contributed to the summer surge, could make for an even more fearful spread as families gather at the holiday table. Since many colleges returned to campus in late August, average new confirmed cases each day in the U.S. have nearly quadrupled.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended against traveling and celebrating the holiday with non-household members — a category that would extend to students who haven’t been living with their parents for two weeks.
All scenarios carry risk, said Anita Barkin, co-chair of the American College Health Association’s Covid-19 task force, which has issued its own considerations for colleges.
“Students could either take it home or take it back to campus, and we would have more outbreaks, especially now with Covid soaring across the country,” Barkin said.
The College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College in North Carolina examined Thanksgiving plans for a sample of 100 schools across 50 states: the Power 5 sports conferences, flagship schools and universities with large on-campus enrollments. Almost 80% are stopping in-class instruction by Thanksgiving.
“The vast majority took full control and said, ‘We’re going remote,’” said Samuel Owusu, a research analyst.
Yet most students will need to travel, as they attend colleges an average of 130 miles from home, according to U.S. Education Department data. The distance is higher, 313 miles, at private four-year colleges. A coalition of seven governors in the Northeast this week encouraged colleges to provide testing for all students traveling home for Thanksgiving break to “the maximum extent possible.”
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