It’s now too late for a 14-day quarantine for thousands of college students returning home for Thanksgiving. How can families still gather for Thanksgiving and be safe? Here are some recommendations.
Diana Cervantes, director of the epidemiology program at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, told the Texas Tribune this week, that Thanksgiving break is like “stars aligning” for the worse.
The Other Kind of Tests
Colleges are encouraging students to take COVID-19 tests before Thanksgiving break.
In a letter to the campus community last week, school officials at Texas A&M University in College Station encouraged all students living in campus housing to get tested, noting that visitors to on-campus residence halls are discouraged and that gatherings of more than 10 must be approved by the appropriate dean, vice president or provost. The directives come after data showed 354 new positive cases among the 4,444 who were tested in the first week of November.
Texas Tech University in Lubbock, a city that is currently a coronavirus hot spot, has strongly encouraged students to get a flu shot and get tested for coronavirus before leaving campus. If a student in university housing tests positive for coronavirus, the student will be allowed to stay on campus over the holiday.
Last week, University of Texas at Austin President Jay Hartzell said that those who leave campus and plan to come back during the months ahead should self-quarantine for seven days prior to returning, and then another seven days once back on campus.
“Cases are beginning to rise again in Austin, and it’s up to each of us to wear masks, practice social distancing, wash our hands and remain vigilant and use good judgment in the days ahead,” Hartzell added.
Prepping for Thanksgiving 2020
Infectious disease experts are saying it is a good year to consider alternatives to in-person get-togethers. They suggest inviting family and friends to use virtual gathering options such as Facetime and Zoom.
“A visit with family members totaling less than 10 people socially distanced would be the safest,” said Trish Perl, MD, who is a member of the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 Task Force and Committee on Infectious Diseases, on Monday.
Perl suggests thinking ahead about how you will plan your visit If you are committed to visiting family during the holidays.
The Dinner Table
If family is coming to your house, think about your seating arrangements, Perl said. “Instead of one big table, use smaller tables. It would be even safer to have some family members eat outside,” Perl explained.
When it comes to preparing food and being safe over Thanksgiving, Perl says to prepare food as you normally would but think about how you are going to serve your meals without having to have people standing close to one another in the buffet line or at the table.
Along with washing high-touch surfaces, think about other ways you can make your space safer, Perl advises. “Ask how you can improve the ventilation in the house. Is it warm enough? Is there enough airflow?”
Smaller groups are safer than larger groups. “It just decreases the risk that someone might carry an a-symptomatic COVID infection into the house and transmit it to the group,” Perl said.
Plastic and Paper?
This would be the year to put away the silverware and pull out plastic utensils and paper plates, said Perl.
“I am hopeful, but we are going to be wearing masks, doing a lot of handwashing, and thinking differently about how we are going to gather as a family. To be safe, remember the three Ws. Wear your mask. Watch your distance. And wash your hands,” Perl added.