As Thanksgiving approaches, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Wayne State University's Public Health Subcommittee are encouraging students to reconsider travel plans in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We strongly recommend that you do not participate in any indoor gathering that does not include people in your immediate household,” the subcommittee said in an email to the campus community on Nov. 11.
Andrew Martin, global supply chain senior at WSU, said his family has canceled in-person holiday gatherings due to safety concerns.
“A family member got (COVID-19) recently, so we are shutting down all holiday plans to see family. A perfect ending to a tough year,” Martin said.
Traveling and gathering with individuals outside one’s household can "increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I planned on going home for Thanksgiving, however, a few things have changed and unfortunately I won’t be able to, which is okay,” said Koi Rice-Cutts, a psychology major at WSU. “Being away from home during these times makes me feel more cautious because of all the new people on campus I’m around.”
If students choose to leave campus for the holidays, there are public health recommendations that the MDHHS asks students follow.
Students should self quarantine for 14 days before leaving campus and wear a mask at all times around anyone they do not live with on campus —even family, according to MDHHS. The CDC also advises getting a flu shot before traveling, wearing a mask in public spaces and around individuals of other households. The CDC also reccomends maintaining at least six feet of physical distance from individuals of other households and frequent hand washing.
Students returning to campus after break are required to be tested for COVID-19, in line with MDHHS recommendations, said Student Senate Public Health Chair Madison Wiljanen at its Nov. 19 meeting. Many students are also getting tested prior to break to avoid spreading COVID-19 to their loved ones.
WSU President M. Roy Wilson and First Lady Jacqueline Wilson have hosted annual Thanksgiving dinners since they arrived at WSU in 2003, said Tim Michael, associate vice president for student auxiliary services and chief housing officer. The dinner will not be held this year due to the pandemic.
This year, Towers Café will be serving daily meals to campus residents throughout the break at no additional cost, including a Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 26, according to an email sent to students on Nov. 13. Students can submit a dining questionnaire to plan for their daily meals during break.
Limits on in-person gatherings due to the pandemic, including what is likely to be an unusual holiday season, are taking a toll on students.
“I think I’m struggling to keep a positive mindset,” said Christopher Crumley, a senior English major. “I try to remind myself that this is only temporary, but it won’t be long until life has been this way for a year and winter’s almost here. It’s going to be lonely, very lonely.”
The isolation of the pandemic is difficult to cope with, Martin said.
“It's been different, that's for sure,” Martin said. “I decided to move away from home for the first time in two years and coupled with COVID it's been a lot of self reflection. Living alone during COVID is a whole new beast that takes a ton of will power to get over.”
Rice-Cutts said as a freshman, her college experience has been highly affected by the pandemic.
“My family also experienced a bit of hardship due to COVID, so keeping a positive mindset that this will pass keeps me motivativated in my goals and achievements,” she said.
Chantell Phillips is a contributing writer for The South End. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Cover photo by Quinn Banks, multimedia editor for The South End. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.