Will holiday travel affect students returning to school in January?


See also: Traveling for Christmas discouraged during the COVID-19 pandemic

Many BYU students are traveling home for Christmas, and some have already traveled for Thanksgiving. Most will be returning for school in January (Emily Andersen).

BYU students come from 105 countries and all 50 states within the U.S. With many students traveling home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, there could be a risk of COVID-19 cases spiking when students return to campus.

Brad Berges, a BYU biology professor who specializes in studying viruses, said those who travel by plane are in more danger of spreading COVID-19 than those who go by car and suggested that those traveling by plane be extra careful about wearing a mask and social distancing at the airport.

“The close proximity of people in airports, and also passengers on flights and the sharing of common air would make me pretty wary,” Berges said. “Most of the masks that we’re wearing are not fitted properly, and there are gaps all around the edges where the virus could enter in as we inhale.”

Nancy Volmer, the director of communications at the Salt Lake City International Airport said that while the airport staff is doing its best to promote safety procedures and protect passengers, it’s important that those who are traveling do what they can to keep each other safe.

“Ever since the pandemic hit, we’ve taken a number of measures to make sure that passengers who are flying through the airport feel safe doing so,” Volmer said. “There are always a few people who don’t want to put on their masks.”

Cases of COVID-19 were high at the beginning of this Fall Semester, but BYU is trying to prevent the numbers from rising again during Winter Semester. The university’s COVID-19 information page says that while BYU is planning to continue in-person classes for the winter, “this is subject to change depending on trends in disease prevalence and guidance from state and local governments.”

When students return for Winter Semester, they will be required to follow the same guidelines that have been in place during fall, and additionally, students who are living in on-campus housing or attending in-person classes will be required to be tested at least once every 14 days in accordance with the state mandate. Any other updates to requirements for students will be posted on BYU’s COVID information page.

Utah doesn’t currently have any travel restrictions in place, although there are other restrictions, such as the statewide mask mandate. Some states are requiring anyone who enters the state to quarantine for two weeks, and some are only advising a two-week quarantine, or only requiring it if the visitors are coming from high-risk areas.

Some states have mandatory quarantine for those who enter the state, others only have suggested restrictions. This map shows restrictions by state as of December 7 Info gathered from CNN and various states’ websites. (Map by Emily Andersen)

Family studies major Molly Flinders is planning on traveling for Christmas with her husband. Both of the Flinders had the coronavirus in November and have now recovered. Flinders said she is worried about COVID-19 spreading when everyone returns from the holidays, but that she feels it would be unfair of her to ask people not to travel since she is going to be traveling as well.

“Part of the problem is everybody thinks that they’re an exception to the rule,” Flinders said. “I’m more worried about the people traveling that haven’t had COVID, but I guess it’s kind of hypocritical for me to think, ‘Since you haven’t done something that got you COVID, you should just not be able to do anything.'”

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