College students adapt holiday travel plans amid Covid-19



FILE – In this Nov. 12, 2020, file photo, people get tested at the new saliva COVID-19 testing site at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. With the coronavirus surging out of control, the nation’s top public health agency advised Americans on Thursday, Nov. 19, not to travel for Thanksgiving and not to spend the holiday with people from outside their household. (Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP, File)

College students are keeping their families in mind when traveling between campus and home during the holidays. 

Despite health experts advising against traveling, students want to travel back home during winter break. 

University of Missouri (Mizzou) freshman Emily Hood traveled to St. Charles County, MO several times throughout the semester and said she was nervous to travel between home and campus. 

“Coming home was a terrifying experience,” Hood said. “While I was so excited to see my family, I felt like I was constantly on edge whenever I went home. I had to make sure I was taking every precaution to keep them safe, and I don’t know if I could live with myself if I got them sick or something happened to them.”

The U.S. set a new single-day high for air travel during the pandemic the Sunday after Thanksgiving, according to CNN. 

TSA screened an estimated 1.17 million people that Sunday. 

Mizzou decided to shift all classes online for the remainder of the semester due to rising Covid-19 cases according to Mizzou’s Covid-19 dashboard.

“Even before the university announced that all classes after Thanksgiving break were remote, I was already planning on coming home for Thanksgiving break and not returning until spring semester,” Hood said. “I did not feel comfortable returning to campus and interacting with so many people after everyone had just traveled and potentially gathered in large groups without masks. Now that all classes are online, I’ll be completing all my classes remotely in my bedroom.”

University of Iowa freshman Kelli Tosic, who traveled to Lake County, IL,  said that despite her school going remote after Thanksgiving, she had to return back to campus for athletics. 

Athletes need to be on campus in order to practice,” she said. “The athletic department encouraged athletes to stay on campus as much as possible. I’m on the cross country and track teams, and those coaches encouraged us for as much of winter break to stay on campus, and not go home for that much time over winter break in order to prevent the spread of the disease.”

Tosic said she prepared to return home by taking precautions before she left campus. 

“A couple of weeks leading up to me coming home, I made sure every day to keep track of how I was feeling,” Tosic said. “When I was first initially getting in the car with my parents we would keep our masks on and for the first couple days and kind of stay a little distance just to be safe.”

Hood also said she would take precautions at home in order to protect her family. 

“I didn’t really hug my parents or my family from August when they dropped me off for school until this week, when it was two weeks after I returned home for break,” she  said. “Every time I came home, I wore a mask everywhere and maintained at least six feet of distance between all of my family. For meals, I would eat them in my room by myself or sit 20 feet away from my family and eat on a TV tray in my living room when I had to remove my mask.” 

DePaul senior Mara Reed, originally from Belleville,  said she usually takes the Amtrak home from school, but decided to travel by car to stay safe. 

“Prior to the Covid outbreak, I would always travel home by Amtrak, but cars are a much safer way to travel at the moment, especially since a member of my family is at high risk,” Reed said. “I did not return home for Thanksgiving due to lack of Covid-safe transportation.”

Reed said she will maintain precautions such as avoiding large gatherings and wearing a mask when she is at home. 

Hood said she encourages college students to take as many precautions at home to protect their families. 

“When I came home, I didn’t act and live normally in my home because I technically wasn’t a resident there, and I think that all college students should adopt that mentality,” Hood said. 

“Even though you might have lived at your house all your life, in terms of the pandemic, acting as though you are a quarantined guest could help save lives.” 

Hood said that there is no shame in taking precautions. 

“There’s nothing wrong or weird about wearing a mask around your family,” she said. “In fact, I think there’s something beautiful about caring so much for your family and community that you’re willing to make a tiny sacrifice for their health and safety.”

“Don’t miss a lifetime of memories with your family so you can have a year of fun this year,” Hood added.