The following message by Janet Cruz, MD, Director, Student Health Services, and Marla J. Gold, MD, Director, Return to Campus Operations, on staying safe during Thanksgiving was sent to the Drexel community:
- Avoid travel and in-person gatherings this Thanksgiving.
- If you must attend an in-person gathering:
- Physically distance, wear a mask, and take all possible safety precautions for both travel and the event itself.
- Isolate before you go, and upon your return.
- Consider COVID-19 testing before you go.
- Prepare to quarantine and consider another COVID-19 test after your return home.
- Counseling services are available for students and staff.
Dear Members of the Drexel community,
Thanksgiving will be here soon, and we want to take a moment to express our gratitude to everyone in this wonderful community for being so attentive, resilient and caring during a year of unprecedented levels of stress and disruption in our campus routines. We could not be prouder to be members of the Drexel community.
During the holidays, there’s nothing most of us want more than good food and the comfort of friends and family. However, we ask that you consider both your safety and that of your family and community as you make plans for the Thanksgiving and winter break. This year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, our choices and decisions can threaten the health and well-being of our friends and family. We must plan and choose wisely.
As disappointing as it may be, if you can avoid traveling or in-person gatherings for Thanksgiving, please do so. COVID-19 cases continue to rise in our region and across the nation. Philadelphia’s recent test data reflects high rates of community transmission and regional hospitalizations are also increasing. This mirrors the experience of most of the nation. The virus often spreads best when people gather with others from outside their household, and the more people, the greater the risk of viral transmission.
Skipping what may be your family’s traditional Thanksgiving get-together is probably the safest choice. Keep it small and keep it safe. Consider meeting with loved ones via a family teleconference, or taking part in cherished rituals in creative, but distanced ways. More information can be found in this recent article in The New York Times.
If you are currently in isolation or quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19, you must not attend any in-person gatherings. If you’re a student who is quarantining or isolating on campus, the University will continue to support you as usual over the Thanksgiving break. Students in such situations will be assessed and provided guidance from Student Health Services regarding travel, but the best thing to strive for is to avoid being exposed or infected with COVID-19. In that way, we can all help control this pandemic.
If You Travel
Before you go: Make a plan.
Consider the prevalence of the virus in the community you’re traveling to, and whether attendees will take safety seriously. Assess your risk of exposing others, including how much contact you regularly have with other people, the prevalence of COVID-19 where you live, and whether other attendees are immunocompromised or older than 65. Limit your contact with other people for at least 14 days before you go, because any exposure may disrupt your ability to travel.
- Try to travel in a private vehicle alone or with your household/pod.
- If sharing a car with those outside your household, wear a mask, and if possible, open the windows for ventilation. Wipe down high-touch surfaces of the vehicle with sanitizer wipes.
- If traveling by bus, train or plane, wear a mask, use hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes frequently, and sit as far from other passengers as possible.
- Check local travel regulations and try to avoid travel to states or countries that are listed as hot spots by the Pennsylvania Department of Health or the CDC. You can view CDC guidelines here. Try to reduce the number of stops or transfers on your trip.
Work with your family or companions to make physically distanced arrangements for dining in well-ventilated or outdoor spaces. Make sure that everyone will wear a mask and has access to hand sanitizer and handwashing facilities.
People at risk of being infected with COVID-19 should consider taking a COVID-19 test, leaving enough time to get results before holiday travel. If you receive a positive test result beforehand, you must not attend in-person gatherings. Please be aware that a negative test does not guarantee that you are not infected with COVID-19; you must still take all possible safety precautions.
In the past week, regional universities have seen an uptick of COVID-19 infection among students, which appears to be related to gatherings that occurred over Halloween. At Drexel, we are unfortunately seeing that same increase. Having access to COVID-19 testing does not mean you can neglect other risk reduction strategies. We know many are experiencing pandemic fatigue, where mask wearing and distancing falters. We are all being asking to do things that feel difficult. But keeping our University and city open are worth the risk-reduction steps we need to maintain during this time.
Increased COVID-19 testing for Drexel students traveling to family for Thanksgiving will be offered beginning Monday, November 16. This testing will be for limited numbers of students and offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Other local testing options in Philadelphia are described here. Students will receive a separate email with details concerning how to schedule their test at Drexel. While testing provides you with important information, it does not replace the critical importance of masking, distancing, and keeping your social interactions safe. Again, a separate email this week will be sent to students with key information concerning holiday planning and testing.
While you’re there: Keep an eye on COVID safety for you and your family
- Avoid physical contact between attendees.
- Stay physically distanced — at least six feet apart from others — and wear a mask.
- Try to eat meals in a private space, or outdoors with everyone at least six feet apart.
- Use a separate bathroom from others if possible; otherwise, try to space out visits to the bathroom and disinfect surfaces before and after use.
- If you’re staying overnight, avoid sharing a room with anyone.
- We depend on you to continue to keep your risk of infection as low as possible wherever you are.
Traveling before Winter Quarter/Spring Semester
Students, faculty and professional staff who do not need to return to campus before the start of winter quarter or spring semester academic programs should avoid doing so. While our buildings will remain open, we are asking you to minimize return travel to campus if you do not need to be here. If possible, please reduce the risk of viral transmission by not returning to campus until the week of January 4, 2021.
When you return: Monitor your health
Even if you are careful, you can still contract COVID-19. Upon return to campus, plan to stay out of shared spaces as much as possible and always wear a mask when you’re outside your own personal space. Continue to use the Drexel Health Tracker for health screening.
Navigating family and social demands during the holidays is stressful at the best of times, and even more so when contending with the threat of a deadly pandemic, isolation, and potential differences with loved ones regarding COVID-19 safety. If you need emotional support as you plan your Thanksgiving, or during the break, Drexel is here for you. Students can schedule a virtual appointment with a therapist by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 215.895.1415. Employees can call 888.628.4824.
Thank you again for all you are doing to protect one another.
Janet Cruz, MD
Director, Student Health Services
Marla J. Gold, MD
Director, Return to Campus Operations