Thousands of college students soon will come home to Hamilton County for Thanksgiving. The Hamilton County Health Dept. said that brings with it a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure to families. “Now is the time to start talking to your college-age kids about the return home,” stated Christian Walker, emergency preparedness coordinator for the Hamilton County Health Dept. “They need to start getting tested for the virus and quarantining themselves to limit exposure. The last thing you want is your child coming home for the holidays and infecting the entire family.”
Many colleges have become hot spots for the virus and sometimes, younger people are asymptomatic, meaning they can unintentionally transmit the virus to others. Some colleges and universities, like Indiana University in Bloomington, are encouraging students who live on or near campus to get tested before they head home, but testing is not mandatory.
“It’s also important to remember that a single negative test is not enough to assure you’re not a carrier,” Walker stated. “The test is only a snapshot in time. The virus can take as long as 14 days to incubate, meaning you could test negative today and be positive in two weeks.”
For that reason, the Hamilton County Health Dept. also recommends college students quarantine at least two weeks prior to Thanksgiving – either at school or by leaving campus early to do so at home.
“They can’t be out partying and shutting down the bars,” HCHD Health Education Specialist Jim Ginder stated. “Hosting private parties is a no-no, too. When they are not in class, students need to be sequestered in their room. No exceptions.”
The Centers for Disease Control is warning about the dangers of travel during the holiday season. CDC recommends driving alone if possible. Flying, while relatively low risk because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, can still put students at risk during long layovers and in security lines. Ride sharing is discouraged.
HCHD also suggests college students wear a mask inside the house until they can be certain they are not contagious. They should also get a flu shot if they have not already received one.