College students return home for holidays amid COVID-19 cases surge, maintain social distance and precautions, health experts say

CHICAGO (WLS) -- College students will head home for the holidays, but there are concerns as COVID-19 cases surge nationwide.

Some students have done their part by staying quarantined and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in a school environment.

"Strictly doing online classes, so if I'm not getting food then I'm just in my room," said Jason Thompson, Carthage College freshman student.

Students like Thompson from Chicago have been wearing masks and social distancing on the Kenosha campus as COVID-19 cases and deaths dramatically increase in Wisconsin. At the same time, the semester at Carthage will end early and students will return home for Thanksgiving.

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"For the first week or first two weeks, maybe I just wouldn't be as close to them maybe just to be sure," Thompson said.

"I think I'm going to spray him down when I pick him up at Carthage College, but on a serious note, we'll probably wear masks around each other," said Geralyn Thompson, Jason's mother.

"The house is full of PPE products and so forth, and that's what we're going to do," said Art Thompson, Jason's mother.

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Doctors are asking families of returning students to be cautious even when at home.

"Even in the home, you should mask and distance for at least 14 days," said Dr. Nadia Khan, Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, Internal Medicine.

"They should sleep in their own room, if possible, use their own bathroom, certainly do not share food and utensils with them," said Dr. Emily Landon, University of Chicago Medicine, hospital epidemiologist. "You want to eat quickly. I know this is against all the nutritional and health advice out there. 'Eat alone, eat really fast.' No one ever tells you to do these things, but those are really good tactics right now."

Despite relatives and friends eager to see Thompson when he returns, their celebrations will be virtual with extended family for now.

"Protecting ourselves and protecting each other, that's paramount. When we finally come together, it will be the greatest family celebration you will ever see," Geralyn said.

Health experts said testing may be helpful before or during a student's return home but extra precautions should be maintained for 14 days even if the result is negative.
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