Welcoming Home a College Student at the Holidays
November 19, 2020
Many colleges and universities that welcomed their students back to campus for the fall semester, plan to close at Thanksgiving. If you have a household member who is also a college student, you may be wondering how to safely welcome them home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are recommendations based on guidance from the CDC and Penn Medicine healthcare epidemiologists.
Best Practices to Avoid COVID-19
Beginning two weeks before their planned travel home (or as soon as possible), your college student should be reminded about maintaining all the best practices to avoid COVID-19:
- Keep socially distant from others as much as possible.
- Avoid any indoor gatherings with people outside their bubble
- Wear a mask diligently and consistently
Before Traveling Home
If your college student’s school is offering COVID-19 screening tests on campus, encourage them to be tested shortly before travel to ensure they are COVID-19 negative. If they have any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 before they plan to travel, their travel should be delayed.
When traveling, encourage your student to follow the best practices above, along with:
- Consider wearing eye protection—goggles or face shield.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
- Travel with alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol, and use it frequently throughout the trip
- Minimize rest stops
- Avoid or minimize indoor eating during the trip
- Choose airlines that keep the middle seat vacant, if possible
- Socially distance while in train and bus stations, airports and rest stops
After Arriving Home
Once home, your college student should continue to monitor themselves daily for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days, and continue to socially distance as much as feasible.
If other members of your household are at high risk for severe illness associated with COVID-19 infection, your college student should quarantine as much as possible from those who are most vulnerable. This includes individuals 65 and older (greatest risk of severe disease and death is in those 85 and older), and people with these high-risk medical conditions:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Heart conditions: heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies
- Transplant patients
- Obesity with a body mass index (BMI) >30
- Sickle Cell Disease
Learn more about safely gathering for the holidays from Dr. Leon Kraybill, chief of Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s geriatric division, and medical director at Luther Acres in Lititz.