Many UofA students will be carving turkeys and baking casseroles without their loved ones this Thanksgiving, as COVID-19 cases skyrocket and transmission fears heighten.
Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines Thursday discouraging holiday travel and stating that celebrating at home with those you live with is the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving. Traveling increases the chance of exposure and contributes to the spread of the virus, according to the guidelines.
Katelyn Cardwell, a junior from Dallas, decided to stay in her apartment in Fayetteville for Thanksgiving break, in an effort to protect her sister, who is at a high risk for a severe COVID-19 infection, she said.
Cardwell knows staying in Fayetteville is a much safer option for her family members, because she has been exposed to more people than they have, she said. However, she thinks spending the holiday break without her family is less than ideal.
“Usually the whole point of the holidays for us is being able to get together as a family,” Cardwell said. “Thanksgiving doesn’t really mean anything to me personally unless I’m with my family.”
Cardwell plans to have a small friendsgiving celebration with some of her co-workers, and is deciding if she thinks it would be safe to meet up with her aunt who lives near the Missouri border, she said.
Caroline Tuggle, a freshman from Flower Mound, Texas, was originally going to drive to Georgia with her parents to see her brother and grandma. Because of COVID, Tuggle and her parents decided it would be safer for them to stay in Flower Mound. Her brother decided to stay at his house in Nashville, and her grandma will be spending Thanksgiving alone.
“As much as it sucks, I do think this is the safer option,” Tuggle said. “We all agreed to Facetime and Zoom as much as we possibly can so that we can feel like we are all together.”
The holidays are some of the only times each year that Tuggle gets to see her extended family, and she is upset that she cannot this year, she said.
Elena Wallach, a junior from St. Louis, Missouri, usually spends Thanksgiving with her grandparents, but has only visited them from their driveway while they sit on their porch during the pandemic.
“My grandfather had heart surgery last winter, and my grandmother is currently going through chemotherapy for breast cancer,” Wallach said. “My brother and I are both in college, so I feel like we would be putting them in danger by going to a Thanksgiving dinner at their house.”
Wallach’s family is instead gathering with some family friends at an outdoor celebration to reduce the chance of spreading the virus to each other. Wallach and her loved ones plan to have separate tables for each family, so that members of different households remain six feet apart, she said.
Wallach said she is extremely worried about the spread of COVID-19 once the UA community returns to campus after break.
“I think that it is the most irresponsible thing to do to go to bars, restaurants, and other gatherings while home for Thanksgiving,” Wallach said. “You are not only possibly infecting your family with whatever you picked up while going out, but you are also potentially infecting other students when we return to campus after break.”
The UofA is one of three SEC schools whose students will return to campus after the break, along with the University of Florida and Ole Miss, which will hold limited in-person classes. Classes at schools such as Louisiana State University, the University of Georgia and Auburn University will be completely virtual following Thanksgiving, according to the schools’ websites.
Chancellor Joe Steinmetz said in an email Friday that students wishing to go remote after Thanksgiving should make arrangements with their instructors. He is encouraging everyone who chooses to return to campus after the break to get tested for the virus.
Tuggle said she is not worried about contracting the virus while she is home, and bringing it back to campus, because her parents have told her they have been limiting their contact with others. She is more worried about bringing it home to her family.
“I think it’s very important to protect my family during this time because all of us have our own health conditions that we need to deal with and adding COVID-19 to the mix could be really bad,” Tuggle said. “We all just agreed that it would be in everyone’s best interest to stay where we are to protect ourselves and others from getting sick.”