Non-essential travel discouraged by university officials amid holiday season

Non-essential travel discouraged by university officials amid holiday season

Photo Credits: Cathy Tang / Aggie

Expansion of weekly COVID-19 tests show effort to curb transmission of virus

UC Davis has “discouraged non-essential travel to help reduce any potential spread of the virus” for the remainder of Fall Quarter, according to an email sent by Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Pablo Reguerín and Medical Director of the Student Health and Wellness Center Cindy Schorzman. 

“Student Housing and Dining Services surveyed residents to determine how many will be leaving for the break,” said Michael Sheehan, the associate vice chancellor for Student Housing, Dining and Divisional Operations, via email. “We are directing our residents to test prior to leaving and to test immediately upon return. We are also directing our residents to shelter in place upon return.”

The email also stated that students returning to Davis from their home or Thanksgiving destinations are also expected to be tested at a kiosk within seven days of their return. 

  Student housing, dining and residence halls will be closed on Dec. 19 and will reopen on Jan. 2 for winter break. 

As of Nov. 18, all staff, faculty and students arriving on campus will have to complete weekly COVID-19 tests, according to the UC Davis website. The number of weekly COVID-19 tests being conducted on campus nears 20,000. 

“We have stressed public health recommendations including face coverings, avoidance of large gatherings (especially indoors), minimizing all non-essential travel and physical distancing,” Schorzman said via email. 

Schorzman also said that parties and gatherings tend to contribute to the spread of COVID-19 and that screening for the virus during the week prior to Thanksgiving is recommended. 

In a free webcast through UC Davis Live on COVID-19, Director of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Partnerships Soterios Johnson dissected how to navigate the holiday season while avoiding contracting the virus. 

 “The worst-case scenario following conventional Thanksgiving practices is that it could lead to the death of a loved one or loved ones,” said Natascha Tuznik, an assistant clinical professor for the department of internal medicine at UC Davis Health. “The risks are substantial right now. Unfortunately, as everyone is aware right now, we are seeing the highest case rates we have since the pandemic started. We just don’t see it slowing down in the foreseeable future.”

Johnson emphasized the importance of not mixing households when celebrating the upcoming holidays safely. Tuznick described a household as individuals who have been living together, in accordance with current quarantine guidelines, for 14 days. 

“I completely understand about COVID burnout, being fatigued with not seeing family, being asked to batten down the hatches just a little bit longer,” Tuznick said.

Tuznick said she advises individuals to consider the risks involved when mingling with others, including threats to oneself, others, elders and people with diabetes, obesity or immunosuppressive disorders. 

“Keep the gatherings small—six individuals or less,” Tuznik said. “Outside is preferable, ventilating your house and opening doors or windows is recommended, masking when you’re not eating or drinking—being extremely vigilant about that, practicing social distancing, following really good hand hygiene and making sure everyone is on board.”

Theresa Harvath, a clinical professor and senior director for strategic initiatives, said it’s important to recognize that this may be the only holiday season with these precautions.

“So, [don’t] see it as a forever change to our traditions that so many of us love and look forward to, [but] think about how we can modify those traditions in virtual or socially distanced ways,” Harvath said. “Recognize that the biggest gift we can give to family and friends is reduction of exposure to something that could make them very ill or kill them.” 

Written by: Aarya Gupta — campus@theaggie.org