We are all aware of the rising COVID cases around the country. Many college campuses are facing similar outbreaks. If you have a college student returning from campus, here is some guidance on how to handle their return.
Of course, these cases can be complicated and there may be questions specific to your family. Please feel free to call your doctor, PA, or nurse to discuss if you have any questions.
Does my college student need to quarantine on return to Connecticut?
There is a Travel Advisory in Connecticut stating anyone traveling into the state from states on the Advisory List is required to quarantine for 14 days. As of this week, the Advisory List includes all states except RI, NY, NJ and HI.
However, a negative Covid-19 PCR test will exempt you from the quarantine requirement. The PCR test has to be obtained in the 72 hours before your return to CT or anytime following your return to CT. The CT advisory asks that negative test results be sent to the Commissioner of Public Health via email or fax. Of course, your college student should wait until he or she gets a negative test result to leave quarantine if you obtain the Covid-19 test after returning to CT.
Does my college student need to self-isolate for 14 days when they return?
This is a tough question. Self-isolate means a person sick with a contagious illness is staying away from all other people, whereas quarantine means a person who may have been exposed to a contagious illness stays in their household, but is not completely separated from people who are not sick. The need to self-isolate vs. the need to quarantine depends on your college student’s exposure level and your household’s risk level. Obtaining a negative COVID test before or after arriving home does not guarantee your college student will not come down with COVID symptoms if they were exposed to COVID just before leaving college to come home.
As part of your assessment, you would want to know how prevalent COVID is on your child’s campus. Check the rates of COVID at your child’s school: many schools maintain a webpage with case counts or check The New York Times tracker on their website. Some colleges have kept cases very low so your child may be at low risk for bringing it home.
Second, what is your household’s risk level? If your family is all young and healthy then you may be at low risk for serious illness from COVID. However, if you have older relatives in your already in your household or visiting for Thanksgiving, or if anyone has chronic medical conditions, then your risk level may be higher. A high rate of Covid-19 infections at your adolescent’s school along with along with vulnerable household members means self-isolating may be safer.
Keep in mind the risk level of your child’s travel home. Driving home is the lowest risk, but if your child has to fly to get home then the flight is another exposure.
How can we decrease our risk?
There are certainly ways to mitigate risk if a 14-day self-isolation is impossible for your family. It might be worth having an honest conversation with your college student about his or her risk level before they return. You could ask them to decrease their risk of exposure to COVID: to try to avoid parties, bars, and gatherings and to wear their mask carefully for the week or so prior to their return.
Combining risk mitigation with some period of self-isolation followed by PCR test does not eliminate risk, but will decrease it.