Education

Students preparing to leave campus raise concern for health experts

Posted November 16, 2020 6:35 p.m. EST
Updated November 16, 2020 9:51 p.m. EST

— College students across North Carolina will soon head home for the holidays, and those who leave the Triangle will be asked to stay away until the spring semester. Colleges and universities adjusted the end of the fall semester to reduce any need to travel back and forth. They are also asking students to get tested for the coronavirus both before they leave and before they return.

For the last nine months, celebrations and holidays have been different.

“I really can’t imagine not spending Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family,” said Erica Langan, a junior at Duke University.

Langan said despite the risk, she planned on flying home to Ohio for the holidays, but added that the fear of coronavirus is something that sits in the back of her mind.

"I think the flight is what poses is the largest risk, and I plan to get tested when I’m home, as well, just to ensure and just to give everybody peace of mind, and also on the way back in terms of bringing COVID back to Duke,” she said. “A lot of the same policies are in place that existed when we first arrived."

With so many others traveling as well, Dr. Rachel Roper said there is a higher risk for virus transmission, especially as cases continue to spike.

“I think the next three or four months are going to be really bad. The vaccines look promising, and they’ll be coming out, but initially, they’ll only be available to the most high-risk individuals,” Roper said.

Roper said Halloween was the perfect example of what can, and will, more than likely happen after the holidays.

"Looks like we had a big spike after Halloween. It was 10 days after when deaths really started going up and that’s pretty fast, so any kind of event is problematic," she explained.

Roper said she knows it’s unrealistic to ask that everyone stay home, but if you must travel, she says a test alone is not enough — a mask and a flu shot will also go a long way.

“The problem with testing is that you’re only negative for that one day,” said Roper. “You can [test] positive the next day.”

Roper said getting coronavirus cases under control in the next few months is crucial, not just for the health of the country, but for the health of all doctors and essential workers who are constantly exposed to the virus.

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