As the holiday season inches closer, we have to think about how to stay safe while you attempt to go home to celebrate with your family. Thanksgiving is the first of the few holidays that are coming up that tends to bring families old and young together. With the ongoing pandemic continuing to be a problem for societies all across America, it is important to take precautions when you are traveling from school back home. Some students chose not to go too far for school and can simply have their parents pick them up to take them home. This circumstance is ideal right now and provides the safest way to travel.
However, not everyone is so lucky. A lot of students decided to go to school where a plane or bus ride is needed inorder to go back and forth from home to college. This guide will help show those students the steps that are necessary inorder to get home as safely as possible without contracting the disease and keeping your family safe in the process.
Honestly, the safest way to travel is to not travel. Aaron Milstone, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said, “It might be safer for kids not to go home, in terms of protecting their family, but we’re all very aware of the emotional toll that will take — to have families separated for the holidays.” However, just as he says, professionals are aware of the emotional toll that will take to not be with your families during Thanksgiving. That is why if you are planning to go home anyway, whether it is because you want to go home or if your parents want you home, precautions are necessary. It is also important to remember that a lot of people of the younger generations can carry the virus and be asymptomatic. That being said, you can inadvertently transfer the virus without even realizing you have it.
To make sure that you do not have the virus before you start traveling, it is important that you self-quarantine. Before you do so, you should also get tested for the coronavirus. However, just because your test says negative, does not mean you should not still quarantine. There have been several cases of false test results, so either way you should self-quarantine. Getting tested is more of a precaution to see if you have it or not. Also, a test can see if you have the antibodies for the virus in your system to see if you have already had it. Now, there are two ways you can go about self-quarantining.
One, you can stay at school in your dorm or off-campus housing unit for two weeks. Two, you can go home, but do not come in contact with any of your family when you get there and self-quarantine for two weeks in your room there. Rochelle Walensky, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, started, “The safest thing to do is go home two weeks before Thanksgiving, which we’re almost at, hang out there for two weeks and then come out of your quarantine.” For those that decide to quarantine on campus or away at college, Gary Simon, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at George Washington University, said to make sure to isolate yourself and wear a mask as much as possible.
The two week quarantine time frame is also important in order to make sure that you do not have the virus. Two weeks is the time frame for how long the virus can stay in your body without showing symptoms. That being said, if you are showing any kind of symptoms, getting tested right away is extremely important. Sadly, if you test positive around five days before Thanksgiving, you should not go home and cannot participate in any kind of public transportation.
Out of all the options for traveling, driving yourself is the safest. Whether that means you are driving your car home, having your parents pick you up, or renting a car to drive yourself. Saad Omer, a professor of medicine and the director of the Yale Institute for Global Health agreed saying that “one of the safest options is driving home alone.” When you are driving yourself, you get the chance to control your exposures to other people. Even if you decide to drive, you also must be as cautious as possible during the few times you leave the car for bathroom breaks, food, or for gas refill reasons. Wearing a mask and practicing hand hygiene routines are important. Wearing gloves is a great way to avoid picking up germs, if not by using hand sanitizer.
However, if you must travel by plane due to distance issues, wearing a mask and gloves is even more important. Omer also recommends not traveling at peak times and to avoid weekends by “travel(ing) at night so that you’re not interacting with a bunch of people as you’re traveling.” Even if you follow all of these guidelines, Walensky still advises a 14-day self quarantine when you arrive at home after you fly just in case. So the smartest route would be to arrive home two weeks in advance to your family’s celebrations. It would also be smart to test for the virus both before you leave school and when you arrive at home.
As mentioned, wearing a mask and practicing good hand hygiene are important strategies to follow to avoid the virus. There are several kits that you can choose from that will give you everything you need in order to protect yourself best. The Personal Care Around Campus Kit is a good first option to take a look at. This kit provides all of the following materials that will help you stay safe while you are traveling.
- 2 face masks that are approved by the CDC with permanent anti-microbial technology that are washable and reusable and have multiple layers of protection.
- 2 SuperClean refillable hand sanitizing creams
- A package of Germisept Multi-Purpose Alcohol Wipes
- The Protect-Aid Safety Travel Kit that includes 4 essential personal protection and disinfecting products into one lightweight and convenient bag. Included with the travel kit are 2 disposable face masks, 2 pairs of latex disposable gloves, 1 bottle of antibacterial hand sanitizer, and 10 disinfecting surface wipes that kill 99.9% of bacteria and germs.
- 1 SuperClean Antibacterial Hand Wash (refillable) made with 72% alcohol to kill 99.9% of bacteria and germs while leaving your hands soft, smooth, and hydrated.
- 1 contactless door opener and button pusher.
With this option, you will receive everything from the larger kit except for the protect-aid safety travel kit. However, this is still a great choice for anyone that feels they just need the essential products like face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizing creams. Another variation of a safety package is the Personal Care Safety Kit for College. This kit includes all of the following products.
- 2 100% cotton 3 Ply face masks that are machine washable and reusable Made in the USA.
- 2 travel size (and refillable) hand sanitizers made with 64% ethyl alcohol to kill bacteria and germs Made in the USA.
- 1 package (15 ct.) of Germisept Multi-Purpose Alcohol Wipes made with 75% ethanol alcohol.
- 2 pairs of nitrile disposable gloves.
Traveling Outside of the Necessities
Neil J. Sehgal, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, says he cancelled his usual trip to California he takes during the holidays. “I don’t feel comfortable traveling for fun,” he said. “To me, it’s not worth the risk.” He too recommends that traveling by car is the safest way to do so if needed. Other professionals agree with Sehgal’s notion to stay home for the holidays. Anne Monroe, an epidemiologist at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, also stated that she and her family felt most comfortable staying home this year. Sehal has even said that air travel is safe “as long as the plane basically picks you up from your house,” in order to avoid all the germs that live within an airport and in shuttle buses.
Enjoy the holidays in a responsible manner and treasure the time you have with your immediate family. If your elderly family does decide to come visit you, understand that the virus is more serious for them than it is for you. Do not casually go out and visit your friends when they are home. The less contact you have with others the better. So, wear a mask as much as possible, quarantine for the appropriate amount of time, get tested, and follow all of the necessary steps that need to be taken that way you do not bring the virus into your family home. You do not want to ruin the holiday season by infecting your family. Please, be safe.