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How Can My College Student Come Home Safely for Thanksgiving?

Sofia Pelaez, 21, left her Texas A&M University, San Antonio, campus three weeks earlier than planned to travel to her home in League City, Tex., because cases in her dorm were on the rise, but she worried about putting her mother, who has high blood pressure, at risk. “I feel like if something would happen to her, it would be my fault,” said Ms. Pelaez, who is studying psychology and child development.

She did her best to minimize contacts at school, and was tested two days before leaving campus. On the four-hour bus ride home she wore a mask and wiped down her seat. (Fortunately, the bus company kept the seat near her empty.) She even changed her clothes at the bus station after she arrived.

She got tested again in League City and wore a mask at home until she got the negative results. “I am not too worried about getting my mom sick because I know I am taking the right precautions,” she said. “I keep a mask with me 24-7. It’s like wearing shoes.”

If possible, siblings returning home from different campuses should isolate in separate rooms rather than staying together, particularly if they haven’t been tested. You don’t want one infected student exposing a sibling who didn’t bring the virus home.

Cathy Neumann, who lives in Downers Grove, Ill., has three adult children attending three different schools — Iowa State University, Western Michigan University and Illinois State University. All three students will be tested before returning home, but she knows they may not have the result before they enter the house.

“If one of the kids is positive, we do have the option of them sleeping in our camper on the driveway, or we have enough hotel points to book a hotel room for them,” Ms. Neumann said. “We haven’t really talked about that though. The boys also live in a house off campus, so if they’re positive we could also say, ‘Nope, you can’t come home.’ But I will seriously cry for days if that happens.”

The safest plan is to move your holiday celebration outdoors. If that’s not possible, open windows and turn on exhaust fans. Give college students their own serving spoons and have them keep some distance during the meal.

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