Family Healthcast: How should students safely go home for the holidays?

Family Healthcast

(WSYR-TV) — Thanksgiving is now less than four weeks away and just months after deciding to send their children to college campuses amid the pandemic, families are now facing another difficult dilemma.

How will they safely welcome students home without introducing a deadly virus into their households?

Infectious disease specialists from across the country have been weighing in and here’s what many agree that parents and students should be considering to reduce the chances of infecting family members.

Young people who get COVID-19 are more likely to have no symptoms. The incubation period for the virus is highly variable and can last as long as 14 days.

That makes it risky to rely on a negative test result. If a student is infected a week before Thanksgiving, and tests negative a couple of days later, they could be very infectious at the Thanksgiving dinner table and not know.

That is where quarantining comes in. Many doctors recommend students quarantine for as long as two weeks at school or preferably at home. If they have to be near others, wearing a mask is essential.

In the days before leaving campus, students should also be tested for coronavirus, preferably with a PCR test.

An epidemiologist from Johns Hopkins acknowledges that some families will want to be together despite the risk.

“It might be safer for kids not to go home, but we’re all aware of the emotional toll of families separated for the holidays,” said Dr. Aaron Milstone with Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Many schools have special guidelines in place for holiday travel.

At SUNY, for instance, all on-campus students will have to test negative before they can leave for Thanksgiving Break.

But, experts cautioned against being lulled into a false sense of security by a single negative test. The test is only a snapshot in time.


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