by MICHAEL FLOSSER
According to a report by Statista, in 2019, 55.3 million Americans traveled for Thanksgiving, which makes it the most travelled time of the year. Since COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in many Americans’ lives, with state travel laws, social distancing and quarantines, Thanksgiving may look different in many students’ lives. With the number of cases in Virginia and all around the country rising, many students are wondering what the best approach is for the holiday season.
For Robert Barrett, a junior marketing major, Thanksgiving will look almost the same as previous years. “For Thanksgiving I am having a typical dinner with close family, this has not changed from most years, dinners are usually kept smaller due to scheduling conflicts,” he said.
When asked about some other policies like masks at the house and quarantining before, he responded, “No masks will be required for the family, although if they would like to wear one that is fine, and family members that are high risk will take the extra precautions to not come or be more safe. The family is not quarantining, my mother is still working and I am still taking classes at the University.”
McKinley Rhinehart, a senior biology major, will also be gathering with her family to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. “We are gathering in person at my house on Thanksgiving day. We usually have about 30 people but are limiting it this year with only immediate family and significant others, this will be significantly less than 30,” she said.
Rhinehart’s family will take additional precautions. “We will wear masks when we are not eating. A few members of my immediate family, like my cousin who just had a baby, will not be attending either due to COVID,” said Rhinehart. “I have a really big family so it will be weird having a small gathering for the holidays.”
In contrast, senior marketing major Ryan Webster and his family will be quarantining before they gather for the holiday.
“It’s going to be in person but it will be a smaller group of people as we won’t invite any friends. It will be different from most years due to the smaller size of the group, although it will be nice to see my immediate family and gather together. My family is already taking precautions for Thanksgiving. We are already quarantining to stay safe and keep the risk as low as possible,” he said.
Nora Davis, a senior business administration and marketing major, and her family will be taking a unique approach to Thanksgiving.
“I am doing three separate thanksgivings with different members of my family to better social distance. This would change from past Thanksgivings, but not drastically because we usually do two separate Thanksgivings instead of three. We are meeting in person without quarantining. I am not nervous to see my family at all, we have taken the precautions to stay safe,” she said.
UMW is also allowing exit screening for students heading home to ensure COVID is not contracted and then taken back to homes and gatherings.
“I would [advise] you to follow the UMW MMDC: Monitor Mask Distance and Clean.
This can be used in any setting, said Rene Sanders, associate director of Student Health. “As you leave campus to go home to your families, you want to keep yourself and your loved ones safe during this holiday break. The safest holiday gathering is to be with the individuals in your household.”
Sanders continued: “Ensure proper mask wearing (over the nose and to ensure it is secured under the chin) if around others. Consider hosting a virtual Thanksgiving Dinner with extended family and friends. With Black Friday shopping around the corner, try shopping online to avoid large gatherings outside stores,”
Many students and staff are being cautious at UMW and are trying to control the spread as they return home from campus for the remaining two weeks of the semester. UMW has made efforts to control the spread of the virus, and the university has been relatively successful with 32 total cases for the semester.
The CDC also recommends smaller gatherings, virtual meetings, shopping online and not gathering for sporting events but staying home, along with only having Thanksgiving meals with members of the same household. The CDC also recommends if you are attending events in person, doubling layers of masks, keeping masks on unless eating, along with continually washing your hands, or keeping hand sanitizer with you at all times and staying socially distant of at least six feet, as well as using disposable or one use condiments, plasticware and bringing your own food or dishes to ensure safety.
“No matter how you celebrate, think the UMW way (MMDC) and you will be prepared,” said Sanders.