Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker along with six other regional neighboring Governors announced they will encourage residential colleges and universities in their respective states to provide testing for all students traveling home for Thanksgiving.
Any student who tests positive will be encouraged to isolate on campus before they can travel or detail arrangements of their safe travel home with the local department of health.
These efforts will help mitigate the threat of college students returning home for the holidays importing COVID-19 into their communities. In addition, colleges should inform students and their families of relevant quarantine policies in their home state.
“The region is experiencing a surge in COVID cases and a surge in the serious health impacts this disease brings with it,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Working together on travel and higher education policies like these, states can have a bigger impact on COVID spread as students travel for the holidays.”
“Gathering with friends and family significantly increases the risk of spreading the virus and while testing and isolation guidelines can help slow the spread, it is up to everyone to wear a mask and avoid gathering indoors with people outside of your household.”
The combination of rising cases across the country – including in the northeast – due to increased transmission of COVID in small, residential settings and Thanksgiving travel has created the perfect storm for viral spread.
If people proceed with celebrations in small gatherings outside of their immediate families, they risk generating a dramatic spike in cases after Thanksgiving.
All Governors are urging their residents to stay home and celebrate small this year in an effort to help eliminate the risk of unchecked COVID-19 spread in the coming weeks.
“As our COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, it’s critical that we come together as a region to slow the spread and keep our constituents safe,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “We all need to be more vigilant about keeping our circles small and our masks on.”
“At the same time we’re continuing to ramp up asymptomatic testing across-the-board,” she continued. “This collaborative approach among Northeastern states will help us flatten the curve and contain spread over the Thanksgiving holiday.”
Raimondo and Baker will be joining the governors in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Pennsylvania in this effort developing guidance over the weekend at an emergency summit of northeastern governors.
The group of leaders also emphasized the importance of in-person education. Medical research as well as the data from northeastern states, from across the country, and from around the world make clear that in-person learning is safe when the appropriate protections are in place, even in communities with high transmission rates.
In-person learning is the best possible scenario for children, especially those with special needs and from low-income families. There is also growing evidence that the more time children spend outside of school increases the risk of mental health harm and affects their ability to truly learn.
In order to stop college-related travel spreading COVID, colleges and universities in New York, Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania will be encouraged to make testing available to all students before they leave for Thanksgiving break and inform students and their families of states’ quarantine requirements.
Any student who tests positive before they leave should be permitted to isolate on campus, or may travel safely with the approval of the local departments of health.
Students who are already isolating or quarantining on campus must remain in place until completing their prescribed seclusion.
In addition, the Governors are strongly recommending that colleges and universities finish their fall semesters by expanding remote instruction, enabling more students to learn from home for the few weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break rather than require students to travel back to campus and then back home again in December.