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Thanksgiving break: Is it safe for college students to go home?

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As North Dakota continues to see a surge in coronavirus cases, health experts are worried that as students head home for the Thanksgiving holiday, it could be a recipe for trouble. But colleges across the state are putting measures into place so their campus doesn’t become a superspreader.

Large gatherings have been to blame for outbreaks at colleges across the nation. Now, experts are worried that students who are going home for Thanksgiving break could bring the virus home for the holidays.

“What we have seen more recently, especially in the Midwest, is a finding that smaller events often lead to a spread of the virus,” said North Dakota Chief Health Strategist, Dr. Joshua Wynne.

Schools like the University of South Carolina and Notre Dame have found ways to shorten the fall semester, classes ending at Thanksgiving instead of around Christmas.

And while other schools are urging students to stay on campus, schools here in the state are giving students an option to finish up the semester at home.

“We’re expecting a number of students to take us up on that option,” said Kevin Harmon, Vice President of Student Affairs at Minot State University.

Harmon says they hope the decision will lower the chances of students bringing the virus back to campus.

“Both Labor Day and Halloween, 10 days after both of those holidays, we did experience a surge in numbers and we could experience the same by families gathering at thanksgiving then coming back,” Harmon added.

We wanted to find out, what should students be doing now if they do plan to head home? We spoke to Dr. Wynne about what three things students should know.

“Number one, regardless of what students do they need to remember, like you and me and everyone else, the four basic things we all need to do: Use a mask as appropriate, watch your distance, wash your hands and keep your number of people around you as small as possible,” he said.

He also says they should try and self-quarantine ahead of time, and to also get tested before they go home as well as retested after they return.

College freshman Chase Doty plans to make the trip home to Florida, but with plenty of precautions in place.

“I’m going to be constantly sanitizing my hands. Like I carry around sanitizer now, and this mask really doesn’t leave my face anymore,” said Doty.

For other students, it’s not a gamble worth taking.

“We have family with underlying health conditions so we don’t want to risk spreading it to them,” said Shelby Eslinger, a freshman at Minot State.

A concern many people have as they try to figure out how to navigate the unusual holiday season.

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