Nov 16, 2020 - Health

Colleges weigh student travel for Thanksgiving as pandemic worsens

Illustration of a table setting with a medical mask in place of a napkin
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Thanksgiving will be a big test for colleges with students on campus.

The big picture: Some schools, including the University of South Carolina, Syracuse University and Emory University, plan to end in-person instruction ahead of the holiday, while others are asking students not to go home.

Why it matters: Health officials fear indoor gatherings and traveling will worsen the spread of COVID-19 nationwide. If students do go home, experts recommend self-isolation, coronavirus tests and flu shots.

Where it stands: Boston University is asking students to stay on campus and have a "friendsgiving."

  • The State University of New York system announced that its 140,000 students must test negative if they want to leave campus.

The other side: The University of Missouri has told students to go home until January.

  • Penn State's departure plan encourages students to get tested prior to leaving campus and finishing their studies online. 

Flashback: Thousands of students were responsible for community outbreaks of COVID-19 returning from Spring Break travel, a researcher from Ball State University found.

What they're saying: "This is something I don’t think there is a perfect answer to, but again it’s all about risk tolerance and thinking about the ways you can minimize it," Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said last week at a virtual event. "And I do think that those individuals [in college] should be overall thought of as high-risk contacts."

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