College students could further spread COVID over semester break

Posted November 23, 2020 8:33 p.m. EST
Updated November 23, 2020 9:46 p.m. EST

— College students have the potential to further spread COVID-19 as they travel to visit friends and family over Thanksgiving weekend.

While many universities and colleges have moved to online instruction, some students remain on campuses and families are weighing their options for how to connect during the holiday.

Doris Tobin is the mother of a student studying at Appalachian State University and a student at East Carolina.

“My husband has older parents, and we were going to be around them for Thanksgiving, so we decided it would be a good idea for the kids to be tested before they came home,” she said.

Testing for COVID before traveling to meet family has been a popular choice for many people. The CDC recommends that students receive a test and take safety precautions when interacting with family. However, with the holiday quickly approaching, some feel that there is not enough time to get tested.

Gina Stevens has a freshman at UNCW. Her family is planning on having a small gathering with no grandparents. Her daughter is not getting tested before the get-together.

“There is too much lag time between test and results,” said Stephens

Currently, over 53,000 cases or 16% of cases in North Carolina involve 18- to 24-year-olds. This does not completely correlate to all college students, but of the 235,000 students attending public universities in the UNC system, 7,517 or 3.2% tested positive.

Dr. Hope Seidel is a pediatrician in Cary. She is also the mother of a second-year student at UNC Chapel Hill.

“Every family has their own situation,” she said. “Certainly, if you have a family member who is immune compromised or high risk, I would not have your college student come home with any kind of contact with them if at all possible.”

Seidel’s daughter was tested twice before returning home and is planning to quarantine for 14 days.

“It’s critical that we assume our kids in college are exposed given that they’re in an unpredictable environment with lots of different kinds of kids,” said Seidel. “Kids in college are just really high risk, given their impulsivity, this time in their life, and the fact that many of them are not living alone.”

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