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Here’s what the CDC and Massachusetts colleges are saying about students who plan to travel for Thanksgiving

The Cabot Testing Center on the campus of Northeastern University during the COVID-19 pandemic. Northeastern has issued guidance for students who plan to travel for Thanksgiving.
The Cabot Testing Center on the campus of Northeastern University during the COVID-19 pandemic. Northeastern has issued guidance for students who plan to travel for Thanksgiving.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

With COVID-19 cases surging across the country and Thanksgiving approaching, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging those who plan to travel to take precautions, and Massachusetts colleges are issuing their own guidance for students.

The safest way to celebrate this year is to hold virtual gatherings or spend it with people you live with, officials say. If college students decide to travel home to spend Thanksgiving with their families, it can pose varying levels of risk.

College students returning home for Thanksgiving should be considered part of a separate household, the CDC says, and there are a number of factors that contribute to the risk of spreading COVID-19 at an in-person gathering with people from different households. Among the considerations that should be weighed are the following:


  • Levels of COVID-19 where the gathering is taking place and levels of COVID-19 at the college or community the student is coming from
  • The potential for exposure to the virus in airports, bus stations, train stations, and gas stations
  • Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose greater risk than outdoor gatherings
  • Events that last longer pose greater risk than shorter events
  • Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people
  • The behavior of people who are attending before the gathering and during the gathering. People who social distance, wash their hands often, and wear masks pose less of a risk than those who don’t

Colleges in Massachusetts are also issuing their own advice and requirements for students who decide to travel for Thanksgiving and then return to campus to complete the semester.

Boston University is suggesting students stay on campus for Thanksgiving and host “Friendsgivings.” If they travel home, they should finish out the semester remotely, according to BU Today, the university’s online publication.

For BU students who opt to travel home and then return to campus, they’ll need to isolate for a week and test negative for COVID-19 three times before they can leave their rooms, the post said.

“This means remaining in your room, attending courses remotely, and exiting the building only for medical appointments or meals," Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore wrote in an email to students who have indicated they plan to go home for Thanksgiving and return to campus after, according to BU Today. “Violations of this advisory may result in disciplinary action up to and including suspension.”

Northeastern University is also asking students who travel for Thanksgiving to consider finishing the semester remotely, according to an email sent to students and staff.


For students who decide to return to campus, they will need to take a COVID-19 test and quarantine. Four days after they return, they’ll take another test. They can return to in-person classes and other activities after that test comes back negative, the email says.

Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.