Students move in during coronavirus

Students move into Dabney Hall on August 20, 2020. The University of Cincinnati expects around 5,000 students to live in university affiliated housing this year.

What do this pandemic-style holiday season and a famous 1980's punk rock song have in common? The question: "Should I stay, or should I go?" 

COVID-19 is spreading faster than ever, and with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaching, many here at the University of Cincinnati (UC) are asking themselves that same question. Of course, The Clash didn't mean for this question to resonate with the worst global health crisis in a century, but nothing describes our unique situation better. 

As for the question at hand, staying is the safest thing to do, in my opinion. But if you decide to go (or have to go), stay there once you do.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their recommendations for how to handle the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, telling people, "Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others." 

Ohio's Republican Governor Mike DeWine echoed these concerns at a special address last week. He warned, "Even our family and our closest friends can bring COVID into our homes." He also said we need to "avoid any unnecessary and additional risk right now."

In the week since those comments, COVID-19 has only gotten worse. On Wednesday, the US broke 250,000 deaths due to the virus, not far from Cincinnati's entire population. The upcoming winter is also pointing to worsening conditions in the coming months. A Johns Hopkins epidemiologist told National Public Radio (NPR), "We are entering what I think will be the worst stretch that we have experienced so far."

The risk of infecting yourself or your family is not worth it. The CDC suggests hosting a virtual Thanksgiving so that you can be with your family without worrying about COVID-19. It may not be the same as gathering around a table filled with delicious food, but it's nothing 2020 hasn't already prepared us for already.

Even with the warnings, alarming numbers and alternatives, many students, who have been away from home for months, will be pressured by family to risk it anyway. If you decide to go, get a test before you leave to ensure you don't have the virus before traveling. The CDC also recommends getting a flu shot and following mask mandates and social distancing rules. 

In preparation, UC planned for students leaving and will be closing in-person learning after Thanksgiving break. The plan will go a long way to preventing the spread, but it may not be enough. For one, this does force students in on-campus housing to stay with family. For two, 76% of students live in off-campus housing, according to a US News and World Report, meaning most students who leave can come back. UC only has control of on-campus housing. 

The only way to ensure there is no spread is by staying at home once you get there. 

If you are a student who decides to go home and return to the UC area, there are still ways to do it and be safe. Get a test before you come back and ensure you are negative before returning to Cincinnati. It also would be a good idea to get tested again when you return here or quarantine for fourteen days. 

No matter what you decide, there is a safe way to do it. If we don't do all we can, the death toll from the virus may become the size of Cincinnati before everything is said and done.