As families prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving college students are packing their bags to head home for fall break and some area health experts worry students may carry the COVID-19 virus home for the holidays.

Mahalia Alascio headed home to Maryland Monday from the University of Tennessee at Martin.

“Being a part of the equestrienne team here at UT-Martin, I do not go out at all anyways, Alascio said. “I usually just stay home on the weekends.

“I see so many people going into Walmart and other grocery stores, on campus not wearing mask and going out to bars and restaurants not wearing mask.”

UT Martin classes end Nov. 24, and the Thanksgiving break begins Nov. 25. Students do not return to campus until the spring semester. According to the UT System COVID-19 Situation Dashboard there are currently nine active COVID-19 cases of faculty and staff and 31 active student cases.

A UTM spokesperson said testing is not required for students when they leave or return to campus. The university does test symptomatic and close-contact people.

Studies show young people have a lower death rate and less severe cases of COVID-19, but they can still bring it home to relatives whose outcomes look a lot different.

Murray State University, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and West Kentucky Technical and Community College are not requiring students to get tested prior to leaving for fall break either.

Leaders at WKCTC said they’ve talked to their students about fall break safety.

“We’re really pleased honestly with how things have gone for us and where are numbers of cases are compared to the number of students we serve and the number of employees we have on campus,” said Bridget Canter, Vice President of Business Affairs and Human Resources for WKCTC.

Canter is also WKCTC’s Healthy at Work Officer and said the college wants to keep that momentum in the spring semester.

Thanksgiving break for WKCTC begins Nov. 25 and will run through November 29th.

WKCTC is not requiring students to take COVID-19 tests before they leave campus or return to campus.

“Before the fall semester began in August, the University modified the academic calendar to minimize student travel to and from campus during the holidays for the safety and well-being of our campus community,” said Shawn Touney, Executive Director of Marketing and Communication for Murray State University, in an email. “This week is final exams week and the majority of our students will be leaving campus starting mid-week.”

The students will return to classes in January.

One Murray State graduate student said she has not seen many people without a mask on campus, but is still worried about the return to campus.

“I think personally like a lot of people are following the COVID-19 guideline on campus I feel like they are handling those,” said Areanna Orr, “but I necessarily don’t know what they do off campus.”

Students can receive a test from the Murray State University Health Services on campus. The Murray State COVID-19 dashboard shows 394 people have tested positive since Aug. 31.

At Southern Illinois University in Carbondale testing is only required for students in dorms returning back to campus for the spring semester.

Thanksgiving break starts at the end of this week for students there, and spokesperson said most classes will be fully remote after Thanksgiving. SIU- Carbondale’s COVID-19 dashboard reports 120 positive tests since Sept. 11. They’ve tested 2,744.

Alascio said her peers must take this virus seriously.

“It’s not about you,” she said. “It’s about the other people around you and it’s just the simple empathy and caring for others and stop being selfish.”

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