How to avoid getting COVID-19 this holiday season

Traveling for the holidays can be stressful, but it’s always best to stay protected and pack all the COVID-19 essentials. Students should pack multiple masks, extra hand sanitizer and possibly some gloves to remain safe and clean. Photo by Misha Mosiichuk.

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As the holiday season approaches, people may be heading home to spend time with their families, so members of the Dixie State University community are taking precautions to avoid getting COVID-19.

“As you travel and spend the holidays with friends and family, there are some tips that can help you reduce the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 and other seasonal illnesses,” said Jamy Dahle, mental health counselor and outreach coordinator.

Check CDC guidelines

“I defer to the CDC for COVID-19 guidelines,” said Callie Peacock, Booth Wellness Center registered nurse.

The CDC has a webpage dedicated to guidelines for celebrating holidays during the pandemic, and the page also features links to other pages with recommendations tailored to specific locations and celebrations.

Steve Johnson, associate athletic director of media relations, said, “For our student-athletes who plan to go home for the holidays, we will tell them to continue to follow all DSU, local, state and federal CDC guidelines.”

Dahle said the Booth Wellness Center as a whole recommends checking CDC guidelines.

“We [at the Booth Wellness Center] encourage you to check out the CDC holiday travel guidelines,” Dahle said. “By practicing these guidelines over the holidays and winter break, you can help reduce the risk of spreading illness.”

Get tested before and after

If possible, students and anyone they plan on visiting should get tested in the days leading up to their trip so they know ahead of time whether there’s a risk of infection. It’s also a good idea to get tested before coming back to DSU, something student-athletes will be required to do.

“When our student-athletes return to campus, they will all be subject to COVID-19 testing and will be isolated from all team activities and athletic facilities for a minimum of 72 hours,” Johnson said. “If the COVID test comes back negative, they will be permitted to return to their respective team activities and athletic facilities after the 72 hours has expired.”

Testing is especially encouraged if students feel unwell when they return to DSU.

“If at any time you are feeling unwell, have tested positive for COVID-19, or had close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, avoid contact with others and fill out a self-reporting form at the Booth Wellness Center website,” Dahle said.

Wear masks and social distance

“Don’t forget to wear a mask while in public places [and] maintain 6-foot distancing from those not in your household,” Dahle said. “Avoid contact with others who are feeling unwell, gather outside if possible and limit gathering in crowded places.”

Johnson said student-athletes are told to wear a mask, social distance and stay away from large crowds as well.

The CDC’s holiday travel guidelines state: “Wear a mask in public settings, like on public and mass transportation, at events and gatherings, and anywhere you will be around other people. Avoid close contact by staying at least 6 feet apart (about 2 arms’ length) from anyone who is not from your household.”

Practice good hygiene

As the CDC has stated since the beginning of the pandemic, adhering to simple hygiene standards is among the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Specifically, hand-washing is highly recommended.

“Practice good hand hygiene,” Dahle said.

Johnson said student-athletes are being reminded to wash their hands.

“Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol),” the CDC’s holiday travel guidelines states. “Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.”

Avoid going home

“I’m not going home,” English professor Stephen Armstrong said.

Choosing not to go home this year and instead celebrate from afar might be in the best interest of some, especially considering the high risk of infection in group gatherings and what that risk means when coming back to DSU.

“If any student-athlete tests positive for COVID-19, they will be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days and will have to be asymptomatic for at least 24 hours after that 14-day period in order to return to team activities or the athletic facilities,” Johnson said.

According to the CDC, celebrating virtually or with members of your own household is a good low-risk alternative to traveling this year. In the end though, it’s up to the individual to decide how to celebrate and avoid getting sick.

“We [at the Booth Wellness Center] want students to know that despite the current circumstances, we want them to connect, engage and have fun, all while following the CDC guidelines,” Dahle said.