Throughout the Fall semester, many campuses and/or surrounding communities have had COVID-19 outbreaks. More often than not, people are quick to blame the students. However, the vast majority of students follow the public health guidelines and genuinely care about the health and safety of themselves and others, according to a recent press release.
As we enter the Thanksgiving and holiday season, reduce your personal risk, protect the health of your family and friends, and send a positive, health-affirming message to your campus community (and your country). by following these guidelines per the American College Health Association.
● Take the time now to develop a health and safety plan to reduce your personal risk and protect the health of your family and friends. If you don’t know where to start, review ACHA’s brief “Considerations for Institutions of Higher Education as Students Return Home.”
● Consider staying on campus and not traveling for Thanksgiving. If you have an option to remain on campus or in the surrounding college community, do so. It will reduce the risk of spreading the virus to both you and your family and friends at home. Consider a “Friendsgiving” on campus instead.
● Reduce the number of people with whom you have close contact prior to traveling if you plan to do so. Any interactions with persons outside of your campus household or “living cohort” will increase your risk of illness.
● Don’t travel if you are sick or exposed. Follow the guidance from your healthcare provider regarding the recommended isolation and quarantine periods. Do not travel until it can be done safely.
● Get a flu shot prior to travel. While the COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available, influenza is preventable and like COVID-19, influenza presents a major risk to the elderly and persons with high-risk conditions.
● If you are traveling, get tested before you leave. While it is not foolproof and only represents a single moment in time, if surveillance testing is available to you (check with your college health service), getting tested before you leave makes sense.
● Follow CDC and public health guidelines to reduce your risk of infection while traveling. Reduce the number of stops on the trip. Take a direct flight if possible, and if driving, pack food/snacks for the trip. Wear a mask, frequently wash your hands, and carry and use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Sit as far apart from other travelers as possible. Carefully wipe down common surfaces with disinfecting wipes in the plane or vehicle in which you are traveling. Choose a window seat if possible and open the overhead air vents to increase circulation. If driving with others, wear a mask and, if weather permits, open the windows.
● Consider a modified self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving home. “Modified” self-quarantine means eating meals in a private space or outdoors, with family at least 6 feet apart; using separate utensils, glasses, and plates; if possible, using a separate bathroom from other family members; avoiding physical contact including hugging, kissing, and shaking hands; wearing a mask and maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet when in the presence of others; and restricting movement within and outside the home.
● Maximize ventilation and reduce numbers at family events. If you must eat indoors, open windows (as much as the weather allows) and get cross ventilation. If possible, bundle up and eat outside.
● Pay careful attention to the mental health of yourself and others. Reach out for help or guidance from your primary care provider, psychologist, or your college health and counseling center if you, a friend, or a family member are feeling depressed, anxious or hopeless over the holidays.
● Become a vaccine advocate. Learn as much as you can about the efficacy and safety of the vaccines for SARS CoV-2 (the virus that causes the disease COVID-19) and tell family and friends what you have learned. When your priority group is selected to receive the vaccine, get vaccinated.
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