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Thanksgiving Safety Tips

Updated November 17, 2020

Coming Home Safely During Thanksgiving1

Answers to some common questions college students and parents have about staying safe during Thanksgiving.

What can I do to lower risk before coming home?

  • Have heart-to-heart conversation with your parents and family about the risks of COVID-19 to family members.

  • Restrict contacts for at least a week before coming home, including avoiding crowded areas, bars, and group gatherings.

  • Approach it with mutual respect, concern, and empathy.

Should students get tested before leaving campus?

  • Yes, testing can give you that extra confidence in your viral status. But it is not a guarantee that you are not infected. It is also possible that a student who tests negative before leaving campus could pick up the virus on the way home.

  • Despite these concerns, Dr. Fauci advises students to get tested before returning home. “Between the testing place and going home you could get infected. But if you’re careful, you wear a mask and you test negative, you’ve diminished dramatically the likelihood there’s going to be a problem.”1

How should students travel from campus to home?

  • If driving home or riding with a friend, all passengers in the car should wear a mask and ride with windows open if possible.

  • If it is too cold outside, open the car windows at regular intervals to let out contaminated air. Make sure the car heater or air-conditioner is using outside air rather than recirculated air.

  • Students traveling on buses, trains, or planes should keep their masks on as consistently as possible, wash hands frequently, sit near empty seats when possible and avoid crowded areas.

Should students isolate or wear masks when they get home?

  • While it is optimal to quarantine for two weeks after arriving home, even a few days of isolation, avoiding close contact with family members and mask-wearing inside the home lowers the risk that a student will unknowingly transmit the virus to others.

    • A swab test after the student arrives home offers additional reassurance.

1Modified from: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/13/well/live/thanksgiving-college-students-return-home.html

Staying Safe during Thanksgiving


A traditional part of Thanksgiving, sharing meals, is unfortunately one of the riskiest activities for transmission. Consider hosting a virtual event or limiting dining to those in your household—this is the safest plan for everyone. If you decide to join or combine households, please plan with the following safe distancing recommendations in mind.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or use hand sanitizer) before you eat, serve food or handle utensils.

  • Do not use common serving utensils. Have one person (with washed hands, wearing a face covering) serve portions on plates. Place the plates separately where individuals can pick them up themselves. Have utensils separately wrapped in a napkin and spaced apart for pick up. This is especially advisable for all foods that are typically shared or served, such as breads/rolls, cake/pies, pizza, salads, side dishes, chicken wings, etc.

  • Avoid pitchers; individual bottled drinks provide fewer point of contact opportunities.

  • Maintain at least six feet of physical distance from others, especially while eating, and remain outdoors if possible.

  • When you are not eating or drinking, wear your face covering, especially when speaking in an enclosed space, speaking loudly, or singing and cheering. Talking, especially with force, can spread respiratory droplets at a farther range.

  • Use face coverings and good hand hygiene when cleaning up plates, utensils and glasses after the meal.

  • Reminder: An exposure to COVID-19 is defined as being within 6 ft. of a positive individual for a combined total of 15 minutes or longer within a 24-hour period. Keeping track of who you were in contact with at a family gathering can be crucial in contact tracing if someone later has symptoms or tests positive.