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Returning home, safely: student opinion on holiday gatherings during a pandemic

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Covid test

OSU is encouraging its students to get tested before going back for Thanksgiving.

Brayden Arentrout is ready to go home, but first, she’s going to get tested for COVID-19.

 “I decided since I’m at a college, and this is a hub of a lot of COVID cases, to get tested before I go home because I have a lot of family members that are at higher risk than I am.” 

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Payne County, the state and the nation are growing. Medical personnel are recording this rise in cases ahead of the holiday season, and experts urge people to continue safety precautions even during this time where families normally come together to celebrate. 

The Centers for Disease Control advises families to keep gatherings small and even use virtual methods to still bond with family members. OSU President Burns Hargis also encourages college students to do what Arentrout is doing, getting tested before going home. 

Multimedia journalism freshman Brooke Addison is also following this advice while also going one step further by limiting her contact with only her immediate family. She said this should be the norm for all students heading home. 

“People should be staying home-- like with their immediate family and not visiting relatives,” Addison said. “My aunt has COVID, so for Thanksgiving, I’m just staying with my immediate family, my mom, dad and brothers.” 

Addison has already experienced COVID and understands how dangerous it can be. For her aunt and her, the COVID experience was mild, but Addison said she is concerned for her more vulnerable relatives, and that’s why she is choosing to keep her distance from them during the holidays. 

For civil engineering junior Andrew Vanaman, he will not be taking any precautions before heading to his hometown in a few days. 

“Personally, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” said Vanaman. 

His family will gather like normal this Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they are not fazed by the rising number of cases, said Vanaman. Vanaman said he’s choosing not to get tested before going home, but he does agree that it could be smart to get a COVID test before traveling. 

This is the advice of applied exercise junior David West: get tested before going home. 

“I think it would be best for people to get tested before they go home because you don’t want to be getting your family sick,” West said. 

West lost his grandfather in June to COVID-19, and he said he is anxious about the growing numbers and said he only sees the circumstances worsening in the coming months. 

“The cases probably already spiked because of Halloween,” West said. “And I bet you Thanksgiving will do the exact same thing. It’s just going to double on top of what we already have.” 

OSU Center for Health Sciences President Dr. Kayse Shrum’s message for students is a familiar one. Wear a mask, social distance and avoid large gatherings. 

“And, at the same time, recognizing that we all need to take care of each other, watch out for one another, reach out and check in on each other to make sure they’re doing OK,” Shrum said. “It’s natural to want to celebrate in the ways that we celebrated football games in the past with tailgating or parties, those kinds of gatherings. But think about limiting the number of people that you come in contact with. It doesn’t mean that you don’t need to come in contact with people at all, but not coming in contact with 20 new people, going to parties or situations where there are people you don’t know, keeping gatherings small and with people that you’re usually in contact with can decrease the transmission of the virus.”