Courtesy of University Hospitals
Winter break is approaching right after the final exams period, and the majority of students will travel back to their home, whether in-state, out-of-state or international. Even though we have gained some understanding of COVID-19, the effects of the pandemic are still not out-of-sight.
As professor Eileen Anderson from the Case Western Reserve University Department of Bioethics and Psychiatry indicated on News 5 Cleveland, “people are just hungry to feel a connection with their friends and family.” It is understandable that people desire connections during the holiday season, especially after last year’s holiday was riddled with uncertainties and restrictions at the peak of the pandemic.
However, without taking into account the lingering effects of the pandemic, the aftermath of the holiday season may be severe. As stated in the message to the campus community from Sara Lee, MD and Megan Koeth regarding the new variant, vaccines and testing, experts emphasize the importance of COVID-19 testing in reducing the risk of transmission.
If you have symptoms and test negative with an at-home antigen test, you will want to have a PCR test done to make sure you do not have COVID-19. Everyone should also keep in mind that the PCR test usually takes one or two days to return results.
Additionally, studies suggest that 35% of COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic. This means that, even though vaccines have been widely distributed, public health measures—wearing a mask, keeping your distance, washing your hands, covering your cough and staying home—are critical, especially during the holidays.
Another issue to take into account, especially for students, is traveling. The general consensus is that vaccinated individuals are safe to travel, and those who have not had vaccine shots should delay travels. Vaccinated individuals, however, should still be careful during traveling; for example, they can avoid indoor and unmasked crowds.
With the emergence of the Delta and Omicron variants in a number of areas, it is important for everyone to follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: not to travel if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, if you’re sick, or if you tested positive for COVID-19—even if you’re fully vaccinated. Furthermore, unvaccinated people who decide to travel should get a COVID-19 test one to three days before travel and three to five days after returning. The CDC also requires all travelers to still wear masks on trains, planes and other indoor public transportation areas. Even though airlines have claimed that plane cabins are low risk since they have good air circulation and filtration, there is no requirement for vaccination or testing before domestic flights, and passengers can remove their face masks while eating or drinking. Hotels, specifically, are risky for unvaccinated individuals, particularly for those who are older or have health problems.
Despite all of the risks that come from the holiday season, it is still possible for everyone to enjoy their break. Anderson warned on News 5 that going big on traditions to recover from potential trauma caused by the pandemic might just be a temporary fix. During the pandemic, excessive restrictions can lead to the opposite of the intended effect; for example, the hunger for live music leads to larger numbers of people going to concerts. Therefore, as long as all guidelines are taken into consideration, people can surely enjoy the holiday season to make up for lost time and interact with people in person again.