As students plan their holidays, the spread of COVID-19 hangs in the balance

Many Boise State students, both on and off campus, are getting ready to go back home for the holidays. Students living on campus who plan to leave for fall and winter break will be expected to schedule a COVID-19 test prior to returning to the dorms.

Luke Jones, executive director of Housing and Residence Life, expects that a majority of the on-campus population will leave for the upcoming fall and winter breaks. An estimated 550 students will remain on campus until the start of the spring semester, but the number of students returning after break is unknown.

“If [students] want to go home, they can […] and they can stay home until the start of the spring semester,” Jones said. “But, if they do go home and come back, they’ll have to be tested.”

Aside from those who decide to leave for the holidays, the students who stay on campus will have to navigate meal plans and alternative food sources for when on-campus dining options temporarily shut down for the winter. 

“This year, we are going to continue the dining options where normally, we wouldn’t have,” Jones said. “But when it comes to the winter break, though, there is a time period where meal plans are not active so students can stay on campus but they have to strategize their food.” 

Returning to campus after the holidays isn’t the only concern. International students are also struggling to get home. Amrina Ferdous, a Ph.D. computing data science student and president of the International Students Association (ISA), planned on returning home to Bangladesh for the holidays.

“For this Thanksgiving, I was previously planning to go home, but now decided not to because of the present situation,” Ferdous said. “In Idaho, the cases are increasing so I’m also afraid that I might spread [COVID-19] going back and forth.”

[Photo of a student leaving student housing with a suitcase]
Photo by Drew Marshall | The Arbiter

Staying here in Boise might seem to be an appropriate choice for many international students and others in order to avoid the complications of traveling altogether.

There is no exact way of tracking every student over the course of the fall and winter break. However, Jones remains hopeful that the ones who decide to leave campus will be responsible and safe over the holidays. 

“A lot of what we’re doing is based on people doing what they need to do to follow protocols from our public health officers and to take the right kind of steps to keep our community safe,” Jones said.

The number of positive tests on college campuses have been surging across the country while Boise State’s numbers have stagnated over the last two weeks after doubling at the end of October. Boise State administrators, including Jones, remain optimistic for the safe return of students at the beginning of the spring semester.

“We’re able to keep our campus open, which a lot of universities either didn’t try to or weren’t able to do so,” Jones said. “Even though it’s different, we are still able to have a campus experience.”

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