News | November 17, 2020

CommunityNews

When it comes to Thanksgiving safety, don’t just wing it

What you can do to combat COVID-19 during holiday breaks

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time when we eagerly embrace family and friends and count our blessings.

But Thanksgiving 2020 is an entirely different holiday. This year, instead of unbridled companionship and cheer, coronavirus protocols mean limiting or even eliminating those embraces, wearing protective masks, being diligent with personal hygiene, maintaining social distancing and generally regulating contact with others so we don’t end up in a situation where — instead of counting blessings — we end up counting more positive COVID-19 cases.

This becomes especially challenging in a university environment such as ours, where daily interaction often is inevitable, and most students are young, healthy and confident they can’t get seriously ill. But that very sense of invincibility might cause students to miss the whole point.

“Local experts indicate that the greatest concern is not having students or others bringing COVID-19 back to campus, but rather having asymptomatic folks returning to their homes and infecting family members,” FGCU President Mike Martin wrote in a recent email to FGCU faculty and staff. “In this regard, staying locally over the break may be a good idea. Our responsibility to protect the health and well-being of our neighbors in the community will remain a priority.”

Photo shows COVID test
FGCU is providing optional at-home saliva testing kits for use before and after the holiday break. Photo: James Greco/FGCU

That being said, FGCU’s health and emergency management teams realize travel and interactions are going to happen. To that end, university officials are doing everything possible to spread the word about how to make the breaks – both Thanksgiving and Christmas – as safe as possible.

Besides the regular pandemic-related, university-wide updates regularly provided by Martin and Susan Evans, vice president and chief of staff, FGCU is:

  • Providing optional at-home saliva testing kits for use before and after the holiday break.
  • Circulating a widely distributed flier that details how to get test kits, provides travel tips, advises when to avoid travel, provides links to nationwide travel restrictions, offers family interaction and risk-assessment guidance, advises when to seek medical care, and details FGCU assistance resources.
  • Offering that same information and more through the Healthy Holidays link at the FGCU Protect the Nest webpage and a safety video.

Seems like a lot of precautionary action, but such is the uncertainty we are dealing with.

“Working in healthcare for many years, never have I experienced such unprecedented times,” said Kristin Phillipine, RN, student health educator with Student Health Services. “We must continue to work together to preserve our future and ring in a safe and promising 2021. Remember to wear your mask, wash your hands and practice social distancing … now more than ever during the holidays.”

Among FGCU students who plan to go home during the Thanksgiving break and, hopefully, take Phillipine’s advice is Alan Day, a sophomore environmental studies major from Brooksville in Hernando County, about a 2½-hour drive north of campus. There’s someone in his family he’ll be protecting in particular.

“I’m not worried about it, but my grandpa is,” said Day, whose family enjoys a traditional holiday dinner at his house. “I’m not sure he’ll be there this year. He was worried about me coming over to see him when I went home about a month ago. I think he’ll come for the meal, but I know he’s concerned about the virus.”

From the university’s perspective, leadership has confidence that FGCU students, faculty and staff will do the right things, both on and off campus. That faith in the FGCU community is something that Ruth Rodrigues, director of FGCU Emergency Management, is proud to profess.

“Holidays give us the richest and most enduring of family memories and traditions,” Rodrigues said. “I am confident that the leadership FGCU students have shown during the pandemic will continue as they share COVID safety tips during family holiday and travel planning. This ‘FGCU Effect’ will ensure that this Thanksgiving will be one of happy and warm memories.”

Video by Tim Clark/FGCU