As the holiday season approaches, on-campus students must plan for a two-month leave from campus. While away, there are some factors to remember to help maintain safety during the coronavirus pandemic:
Check local guidelines
Protocols vary across locations, so check state, county and other local guidelines before traveling or hosting gatherings. Limits on openings and gathering sizes can change regularly, so make sure you are aware of these regulations before planning activities.
Consider hosting gatherings outside
If weather permits, the best way to gather safely is outside while socially distanced and wearing masks. The outdoors provide greater ventilation than indoor settings, reducing the chance of spreading disease. While this does not ensure safety, it does help minimize the potential for getting sick.
Check number of cases in the area
Monitor the rate of spread in your area. If case numbers are high or increasing at a high rate, it is best to be mindful of this. A significant increase in cases would be an important reason to take extra precautions and avoid travel if possible.
Wear a mask wherever possible
Even though some states may not have a mask mandate, these are still a crucial part of preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Masks may seem like an inconvenience, but they are effective in protecting yourself and others in case you have contracted COVID-19 and are unaware of it. Remember that refusing to wear a mask is more likely to affect someone other than yourself, so be courteous and wear one when out of the house.
Check in with friends before gatherings
If you are going to host a gathering, check with all participants. Ask where they have been and who they have been with in the past few weeks. Try to avoid contact with people who work in places with high contact, or those who have been out socializing frequently. The more they have been out, the more likely they could spread the disease to you. Keep get-togethers small if possible and avoid large parties. Also, consider avoiding gathering with those who have health conditions and are especially susceptible to complications from COVID-19.
Avoid unnecessary long-distance travel if possible
While it may be tempting to plan a vacation or visit family members, try to avoid this if at all possible. Air travel can make it difficult to maintain social distancing for long periods of time. Public transportation poses the same risk. Traveling by car limits this, but often requires multiple stops for gas or food. Consider the risks involved with each form of travel before planning a trip.
Complete holiday shopping online
Black Friday and other sale events in stores may make it tempting to stand in a crowded line for a good deal. Likely, no sale is worth your health. Plan ahead for delayed delivery times and check deals online.
While there is not one single answer to staying completely safe, following some of these suggestions will reduce the chance of transmission while away from campus for a few months.