On-campus students worry about Thanksgiving travel as COVID-19 cases spike

Guidance from the Simmons Health Center came too late for some students


Abby Vervaeke, Managing Editor

Julianna Fernandez, a senior resident advisor living on Simmons’ campus, won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving on Nov. 26 this year. Instead, she’ll be quarantining for two weeks after moving back to Denver.

Although Fernandez will get tested for COVID-19 the day before she has to move out, she says she’s concerned about putting her disabled and high-risk brother in danger when she gets home.

“I’m deeply concerned about him and I’m deeply concerned about this surge right now,” said Fernandez. “I really wish I wasn’t flying but I signed up for it. I knew what I was getting into. And it just so happened that the surge is happening right now.”

The safety of her brother is one of the primary reasons Fernandez says she decided to live on campus this semester. But now, with rising cases throughout the U.S., she says she wishes she didn’t have to move home during one of the busiest travel times of the year.

Fernandez is moving out of her dorm on Nov. 24, the day that campus will close until the spring semester starts in February. As an RA, she is required to stay on campus until it closes.

Less than a week before students are required to move out and just one week before Thanksgiving, Simmons sent on-campus students guidance for moving out and traveling home safely. At that point, it was too late for students to quarantine for two weeks before returning home.

Guidance for traveling home from the Health Center was only made available to the community after Fernandez, The Voice and other students reached out to access any resources the center had for students moving out.

Harvard Public Health infectious disease research fellow Stephen Kissler says giving guidance to students is a good idea, but it’s too close to Thanksgiving at this point. According to Kissler, universities should try to make tests possible for students before they go home.

The Health Center’s guidance was emailed to students on Nov. 19 and included getting the flu shot, limiting exposure to people prior to travel and using the least risky form of travel. The entirety of the Health Center’s recommendations can be found here.

Although the Health Center said to delay travel if sick or exposed to COVID-19, it’s unclear where someone in that position would go after campus closes on Nov. 24.

With guidance from the university coming so close to campus closure, it’s unclear how prepared students are to safely leave campus.

While Fernandez plans to carry out the Health Center’s recommendation of quarantining for two weeks when she gets to Denver, not all students will make that same choice. According to a poll from Axios and Generation Lab, only 22% of college students plan to quarantine for two weeks when they arrive home for the holidays and 24% plan to take no precautionary measures at all.