College Students Returning Home For Break Raise Nervousness Around COVID-19

Olivia Rhee, Staff Writer

Green and gold sprawled across the Notre Dame football field Nov. 7, as thousands of Notre Dame college students and fans rushed onto the turf to celebrate the Irish victory against Clemson College. The crowd of people jumped in celebration, as chants and clamoration infused the air. While many watched the football game remotely from home, the 11,000 spectators who attended the game in person sparked concerns as social distancing protocols were not followed. As the holiday season quickly approaches, Notre Dame college students, as well as millions of other students studying away from home, have plans to travel and reunite with their families. However, with the ongoing pandemic, many worry about the safety of traveling over the holidays. 

Most colleges and universities enforce protocols for all students living on campus to schedule tests before traveling over the holiday break. Due to the rapid spike of COVID-19 cases in California over the past month, Governor Gavin Newsom emphasized guidelines for travel safety. “Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday [Nov. 13] an advisory urging anyone traveling to California or returning from out of state to quarantine for two weeks.” Although some students have decided to stay on campus during the upcoming holiday break, others eagerly await their holiday travel plans.

Miramonte graduate of 2020 Peyton Smith, who currently attends Boston College, plans to spend time with family during the holiday break. “I am still uncertain about my Thanksgiving plans, but I will definitely be coming back to Lamorinda. Boston College gave students the choice to go home and stay home until the end of January, or stay on campus. Like most freshmen, I am coming home! I will be flying home from Boston after school breaks and I will be getting another COVID-19 test before flying to make sure I am not helping the spread,” Smith said. Smith also recognizes that Boston College has vigilantly followed protocols to secure the safety of its students. “As an athlete at Boston College we get tested every week. I’m pretty sure I have had around 13 tests or more since being here. BC also randomly selects students for tests weekly and plans on testing everyone before sending us home,” Smith said. 

Like Smith, Miramonte graduate of 2020 Valerie Swe, who is a freshman at Rice University has scheduled a trip back home over the break. “I am very much looking forward to coming back home and hanging out with my family!” Swe said. Rice University has enforced frequent protocols to help maintain everyone’s safety, especially before traveling. “All students, faculty, and staff are required to get tested once a week. The tests are self administered (nose swab) at testing centers under the supervision of medical personnel. The results are evaluated by outside medical groups. 

Others, however, plan to travel away from home over winter break in a safe manner, including Miramonte graduate of 2020 Sonya Harrison, who is a freshman at Colorado College. Due to a campus shutdown within the first month of school, Harrison and her roommate quarantined in Park City, Utah. For the rest of the first school semester, Harrison plans on driving from Utah to New York City with a small group of friends from Colorado College. Harrison intends to return back to Lamorinda during December to visit family. “I am not sure if I will be getting tested before or after traveling on the plane, but I do want to be tested at some point before I see my family. I always wear a mask wherever I go in order to be as safe as possible including on the plane and in the airport,” Harrison said. 

During these uncertain and dangerous times, most students have recognized how to keep themselves and others safe, including coronavirus testing and quarantining. As this challenging year progresses to an end, many hope that families can still celebrate together over the holidays like past years, even if it means traveling. Although incidents including the Notre Dame versus Clemson football game may have contributed to the spread in COVID-19, many colleges and students are taking extra precautions before traveling to ensure that everyone is safe and healthy.