According to Salisbury University’s Institutional Information, 86% of those enrolled in the Fall 2019 semester attended from Maryland as their home state.
This means over three quarters of SU’s students were within reasonable driving distance to visit their homes on weekends.
With the school’s home county of Wicomico County being one of Maryland’s top 10 counties affected by COVID-19, according to the Maryland Department of Health, is it safe for students who attend campus to travel home?
The Maryland Department of Health states that COVID-19 can be spread via people in close contact with one another.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is due to respiratory droplets from the coughing, sneezing or talking of infected individuals; another form of exposure, though not significant, is through touching a surface or object with the virus on it.
Travelling has already been determined by the CDC to increase the chances of both catching and spreading COVID-19.
Knowing this, how should a student decide whether to go home for the weekend?
First, the university community’s level of infection should be considered.
Salisbury, Maryland is a COVID hotspot, and the city has recently instituted new restrictions after an increase in cases within Wicomico County according to an article written by Sara Ash and Kyleigh Panetta.
Where someone travels can also have a large impact. Is a student’s home county or city a high-risk area as well?
Next, those being visited should be carefully evaluated.
Is anyone in the family at risk due to immune-compromising diseases? Who would be put at risk if an SU resident unknowingly contracts COVID before arriving home?
Finally, what is the risk presented to Sea Gulls and the school community as a whole?
If a student were to catch the virus while at home, a variety of people he or she interacts with on campus could be infected.
This includes roommates, classmates, professors, co-workers and other friends and loved ones at SU.
But what if travelling is necessary?
Situations may arise in which someone may be strongly compelled to head home.
What should students do before and after travelling?
First, they should take precautions provided by the CDC. Wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth when around others.
While at home, close contact should be avoided with at least 6 feet between the student and others.
Especially avoid those who are exhibiting any signs of illness, COVID or other sicknesses.
Hands should be washed often with soap and water or a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Even with clean hands, avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth.
Students should also do their best to get tested before and after traveling. Tests are not 100% accurate according to the FDA, but they are reliable indicators of whether COVID has been contracted.
If a test comes back positive, a student should make sure to self-isolate and to not come to campus. SU’s health line should be contacted via email for further instructions (firstname.lastname@example.org).
When the Maryland COVID contact tracing center reaches out, the information an infected individual provides should be as accurate and detailed as possible.
The center will be reaching out to those who have been in contact with an infected student and could have contracted COVID themselves.
If a test comes back negative, CDC guidelines and SU’s COVID-19 rules should continue to be regarded. Negative results do not guarantee the absence of the virus.
Salisbury Maryland is seeing a dangerous increase in COVID. While SU has instituted a host of precautions, the virus and its associated risks will not be disappearing anytime soon.
Without a compelling reason, students should not travel home for the safety of themselves, their families, and their fellow SU community members.
If travelling home is a necessity, students should be extra cautious and follow guidelines established by the CDC.
By JACOB BEAVER
Featured image by Ben Lausch.