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Health officials: College students leaving for Thanksgiving pose COVID risk

Precautions suggested and outlined
College students pose COVID-19 risk
Posted at 5:26 PM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 17:27:58-05

NOBLESVILLE — In coming days, college students will be heading home for Thanksgiving break, and in many cases, for the rest of the semester.

In Hamilton County, health officials are concerned over a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure to the families of those students. “Now is the time to start talking to your college-age kids about the return home,” said Christian Walker, emergency preparedness coordinator for the Hamilton County Health Department. “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.”

In some cases, colleges have become hot spots for the virus and studies suggest younger people are often asymptomatic, meaning they can unintentionally transmit the virus to others.

“It’s also important to remember that a single negative test is not enough to assure you’re not a carrier,” Walker warns. “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 Department 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,” says health education specialist Jim Ginder. “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 also warning about the dangers of travel during the holiday season. The CDC recommends driving alone, if possible. Ride sharing is discouraged. 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.

The Health Department 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.