You can’t have your pie and eat it too

Olivia Poolos | Staff Writer

I have a lot to be thankful for this year—new friends, interesting classes and the fact that I get to be on campus this fall, to name a few. And I’m particularly grateful that Washington University’s COVID-19 transmission rate seems to be relatively under control (knock on wood). According to the Danforth Campus COVID-19 Dashboard, there are 17 active cases after the second round of surveillance testing. 

However, the University’s response to their relative success confuses me. The revocation of the “If you leave for Thanksgiving, stay home” rule could undo weeks of careful planning and preventative measures. A late-September email from Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Rob Wild amended that now, the University is only “strongly recommendingthat students abide by this former policy. Functionally, this change means that students can come back to campus if they leave–why bother with the “recommending” business?

In the next breath, Wild acknowledges that travel and contact with loved ones, typical Thanksgiving activities, increase exposure to COVID-19. This isn’t radical new information. In fact, it’s a great reason to stick with the original plan. While steps can certainly be taken to prevent contracting or spreading the virus (read: wear a mask, wash your hands…you know the drill), airports, airplanes and family reunions all pose risk. Multiply that risk by however many students are now planning to travel home come November, and then reconsider if inviting everyone back to campus (albeit reluctantly) is such a good idea. 

The best-case scenario is that those who do go home can be tested before returning to normal campus life, but it’s not hard to imagine friends reuniting with their on-campus peers before they get their 24-hour test results back. Testing is not the end-all-be-all when it comes to controlling the spread that can stem from off-campus travel. 

While I understand that the choice between spending Thanksgiving away from the comforts of home and staying remote for the last weeks of the semester is a difficult one, we all know too well that sacrifices need to be made this year in order to prevent outbreaks, and this is just another hard decision in a year of hard decisions. To my fellow students, I’m asking you to consider your personal role in preventing the spread. I’m disappointed that there seems to be no clear administrative ruling on how to approach Thanksgiving this fall, but because of that, individual choices matter. 

If friends from home, family pets and Grandma’s pumpkin pie are calling—by all means go home for Thanksgiving! But please consider staying home. If Wash. U. approves a testing plan for students who do come back, it’s crucial that you abide by the rules of quarantine until you get your test results. A few new travel-borne cases mixed with disregard for quarantine protocol could easily whip up a not-so-jolly holiday recipe for an epidemic on campus. 

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