Students Who Leave Campus over Thanksgiving and Plan to Return Must Isolate for Seven Days
University urges students to either stay on campus for the holiday or go home and finish the semester remotely
Boston University is asking on-campus students to stick around for Thanksgiving and enjoy four days of feasting, courtesy of the University, or go home and then stay home to finish out the semester remotely. Those who choose to go home and return to BU, even if they just travel nearby, will have to isolate when they get back for seven days and receive three negative COVID-19 tests.
“This means remaining in your room, attending courses remotely, and exiting the building only for medical appointments or meals. Violations of this advisory may result in disciplinary action up to and including suspension,” Kenneth Elmore (Wheelock’87), associate provost and dean of students, wrote in an email Thursday to students who’ve told the University they plan to leave and return after the holiday.
Only after students who left and returned have stayed in place for seven days, and received three negative tests, will their stay-in-place requirement be lifted, Elmore wrote.
The precautions are intended to keep the campus safe at a time of spiking COVID-19 rates in Massachusetts and around the country. The daily average of new cases has surged past 123,000, 69 percent more than two weeks ago. Almost 62,000 Americans are hospitalized with the illness, a number not seen since April.
While there is an ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases, travel is travel.
In a video message to students, Elmore and Judy Platt, director of Student Health Services (SHS), urge students to remain for Thanksgiving and to plan carefully whatever their plans.
While Platt and Elmore say that the University understands the appeal and importance of spending Thanksgiving with family, they say these times call for changing behaviors. “In a time of pandemic, it’s a perfect setup for increased viral transmission,” Platt says. “We’d like all students to choose to stay. But if you choose to travel home, we are asking you to stay home” to complete the fall semester remotely.
Students who are leaving campus for the holiday should go to the Student Link and adjust their Learn from Anywhere (LfA) status accordingly, so they won’t be out of compliance with their daily COVID-19 testing and symptom attestation requirements, Platt says in the video. Returning students also will have to note their return-to-campus date as the day before their return, as it takes 24 hours for the LfA indicator to update. The video is posted on the Dean of Students office YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.
Elmore’s email drove home that plea.
“Returning to campus after the break is not a good idea,” he wrote. “Public health officials throughout this country are urging us all to stay put and not travel during this year’s holiday season.… This 7-day period (assuming you return on Sunday, November 29) will conclude just four days before the end of classes. Given this small window of time for you to be out and about, I implore you to reconsider your plans and remain on-campus for the holiday break.”
The stay-in-place order, he wrote, “applies to all travelers, whether you are staying in Massachusetts or going to other high or low risk states and countries. While there is an ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases, travel is travel.”
The video also features Christopher L. Bee, campus culinary director, outlining the four-day menu the University will offer students on campus for Thanksgiving. In addition to a traditional turkey with trimmings (or vegan alternatives) on the day itself, Bee says the University will prepare Friday brunch and a dinner including salmon and beef short ribs, Saturday brunch and dinner, and a Sunday brunch featuring lamb and other holiday items.
If travel can’t be avoided, Elmore wrote, students should observe strict precautions: “Remain vigilant of your surroundings; always wear facial coverings and keep your distance (even in small family groups); practice good hand hygiene; be mindful of how you are feeling, and stay informed about travel advisories as they evolve and change quickly. If you develop symptoms while away, stay at home. If you come in contact with someone who may have COVID, stay at home. If you engage in your typical Thanksgiving celebrations, stay at home.”
He also said that students who wish to discuss their plans may call the Dean of Students office at 617-353-4126.
“I know how important togetherness is, and during these difficult times we want nothing more than to be surrounded with that familiar Thanksgiving warmth we get from spending it with important people,” Elmore wrote. “Many of your fellow Terriers have elected to remain on campus to celebrate this time together.”
Elmore said in his email that he will practice what he is preaching: “I have no doubt that my family and I will make epic use of Zoom and FaceTime to keep the spirit of our traditions this year.”