Q: My daughter is coming home from college for Christmas. What do we need to know to make sure we stay safe during the winter break and for her return to college for the spring semester?
A: This certainly has been a difficult year, and we applaud your student for persevering in working toward her higher education. Now, as students, faculty, staff and their families take some well-deserved time off to celebrate the holidays, we hope everyone takes precautions to stay safe.
Of course, as you and your student spend time together during the holidays, remember to follow the safety precautions that have been advised throughout the year. Stay socially distanced and wear masks when you are with people outside of your household, wash your hands thoroughly, use hand sanitizer if you can’t wash your hands and avoid unnecessary travel.
If you do plan to visit others during the holidays, the CDC has a list of questions that you should consider, including:
Are you, someone in your household, or someone you will be visiting at increased risk for getting very sick from COVID-19?
Are cases high or increasing in your community or at your destination?
Are hospitals in your community or at your destination overwhelmed with patients who have COVID-19?
Does your destination have requirements or restrictions for travelers?
During the 14 days before your travel, have you or those you are visiting had close contact with people they don’t live with?
Do your plans include traveling by bus, train or airplane, which might make staying 6 feet apart difficult?
Are you traveling with people who don’t live with you?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” the CDC recommends staying home and planning a virtual event or delaying gathering until it is safe to do so. However, if you do choose to travel during the winter break, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk.
For those who plan to fly or take some form of public transportation, take a container of disinfectant wipes with you to sanitize public areas such as security bins or terminal seats. In addition, avoid enclosed areas such as bars or restaurants. If you want to eat at a restaurant, it’s best to eat outside, if available, or order your food to go. The CDC also recommends getting a flu shot.
If you or your college student begin to feel symptoms, do not assume it is a cold or the flu. The affected person should immediately isolate himself and get tested for COVID-19. In addition, check your student’s school policies about reporting exposure or symptoms. For example, the University of Houston-Victoria and other UH System schools require students, faculty and staff to fill out a form reporting potential exposure to COVID-19 if they have had close contact with a person who has tested positive or is suspected to have COVID-19.
When it’s time for your student to return to his college or university, make sure to check the school’s website for COVID-19 policies and watch for emails or other communications about how to safely return to campus. UHV students can find information about COVID-19 and guidance from the university at www.uhv.edu/covid-19.
This has been a difficult time for everyone, and we hope all our students and their families are able to enjoy a safe, stress-free holiday season.