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Don't travel for Thanksgiving, health experts say. But if you do, follow these tips

By Nicole Villalpando, Austin American-Statesman on

Published in News & Features

"The safest thing to do is to not have these gatherings," he said. "I know it's terrible, and we want to go on with our lives as best we can. ... It seems like it's best to sit this one out."

— "Kids coming home from college is the biggest infection risk," said Dr. Renee Higgerson, medical director for pediatric critical care at St. David's Children's Hospital.

Some colleges have adjusted their schedules to end in-person classes at Thanksgiving to avoid college students coming home at Thanksgiving, then back to college for exams and then back home for Christmas. It limits the community transfer of germs to one event instead of three events.

Know your college's infection rates to assess what the risk might be. Many schools have online dashboards you can check.

Students should come home by car instead of by plane to reduce their risk. If they do need to take a plane, they should their mask and sanitize their hands often.

If the students can get a COVID-19 test when they get home, that will help confirm their safety.

Until you know those results, Metzger recommended physically distancing within the house and wearing masks for the first 14 days. Why 14 days? Metzger explained that 90% of the people exposed to the virus who get symptoms get them within 10 days, with a few going as far as 14 days before symptoms emerge.

Keep those college kids away from the people in your household who are most at risk.

 

ALTERNATIVES, LOOKING AHEAD

If conditions improve by Christmas, and you want to visit your extended family for that holiday instead, ideally everyone you want to visit with would quarantine for two weeks and get a COVID-19 test right before the holiday, said Darlene Bhavnani, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas Dell Medical School. They also would travel to see you in a way that allows them to maintain physical distance from fellow travelers.

Ultimately, though, the safest way to enjoy the holidays is with only the members of your household in person and the rest through virtual platforms such as Zoom or FaceTime, she said.

You can gather as a family virtually and even do fun things, such as everyone making the same dishes and cooking and eating together over Zoom.

Bhavnani knows, though, that doesn't mean people are going to do that.

"That's not likely when people have the itch to travel and the pull of loved ones to celebrate with," Bhavnani said.

(c)2020 Austin American-Statesman, Texas Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC