Staying Safe During the Holidays
As we turn our sights toward Thanksgiving, exams, and the winter break, I encourage you to make a plan to protect your personal health and that of your family and the community. We know that some of you live locally and are already “home,” and many may be making plans to travel.
Last night, Washington State Gov. Inslee issued new guidance for the holidays, strongly urging anyone planning to gather with others to quarantine for two weeks prior. You can read that guidance here: https://coronavirus.wa.gov.
Travel, unmasked gatherings with even small groups of family and friends, and eating and drinking in close proximity to others have proven to be behaviors related to the spread of COVID-19. Perhaps the single most important step you can take is to communicate with your family and friends before returning home or gathering together about any health concerns and mutual expectations for the coming months.
The following guidance and resources will help you travel safely and make the transition home for an enjoyable holiday season.
Pre-departure Quarantine and Isolation
The most effective way to protect the health and safety of family and friends is to reduce the likelihood that you become exposed to or infected with COVID-19. On the advice of public health officials, we recommend limiting social interaction for 14 days before traveling to reduce the risk of exposure.
Specific recommended precautions during this 14-day period include the following:
- Limit the number of people with whom you have close contact, including during meals, to roommates and suite/flat/housemates.
- Only make trips to public places for essential activities such as buying groceries or picking up food and medical visits. Take advantage of grab-and-go dining.
- Avoid eating at restaurants, especially those where dining is indoors. Do not go to bars or other crowded places, especially where masks cannot be worn at all times.
- Wear masks when with anyone who does not live with you, even when gathering socially.
- If you have been instructed to quarantine or been placed in isolation by CHWS or another medical provider, it is possible that you may be permitted to complete the quarantine or isolation period from home; however, the CDC recommends you avoid using public transportation (planes, trains, shuttles, buses or Uber/Lyft) until you have been formally released from quarantine or isolation. Any students who are in isolation and quarantine will receive instructions from CHWS on how to determine if they may relocate and the steps needed for that transition. Students who are not able to travel due to quarantine or isolation will be able to remain in residence on campus.
Students living on campus are required to participate in the campus testing on Nov. 18. Students living off campus are highly encouraged to participate in the testing. We recognize that some students and their families may desire the assurance a pre-departure test can provide. Anyone who tests positive will need to cooperate with contact tracing protocols and complete a 10-day period of isolation. Anyone who tests negative should remember that the test represents your health at a moment in time, and contact with others after your test—whether before, during or after travel—may expose you or them to the virus.
Free Upcoming Testing in the Wheelock Student Center Parking Lot:
- Wednesday, Nov. 18 - Students living on campus are required to be tested. Students living off campus, but who come to campus, are highly recommended to be tested.
- Thursday, Dec. 3 - Students living on campus are required to be tested. Students living off campus, but who come to campus, are highly recommended to be tested.
- Wednesday, Dec. 9 - Students living on campus are required to be tested. Students living off campus, but who come to campus, are highly recommended to be tested.
Students may also choose to get tested through local providers off campus at their own expense. Please see the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department’s list of test providers. Please allow 24-48 hours to receive your results. Students must report positive test results to the CHWS (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Requirements for masks, social distancing, quarantine, testing and travel vary by state. With COVID-19 cases rising in many parts of the country, requirements may change rapidly. Please be aware of requirements in Washington, which could change before your departure, and also be aware of requirements in your destination area.
- If driving or using other forms of private transportation, limit stops during travel to obtain gas and food/hydration, and avoid entering any public spaces to reduce the risk of exposure.
- The American College Health Association offers a list of recommendations specific to college students returning home during the holidays, and the CDC offers general guidance for travel during the pandemic.
Gathering Considerations While at Home
- Consider additional testing and quarantine precautions after arriving at your destination. Regardless of your destination and plans while away from campus, masks, social distancing, and washing your hands frequently remain your best protection against the virus.
- During the holidays, it will be tempting to let these precautions lapse. Remember that time spent in close proximity to others in enclosed spaces, like a kitchen or family room, and close proximity to others over a meal are high-risk situations.
In summary, please plan ahead and communicate your plans with family and friends, travel safely, and enjoy the holiday season.
Dr. Kelly Brown
Director of Counseling Health and Wellness