Traveling by air, train, or bus involves a high potential for close contact with other people and the risk of contracting COVID-19. There is significant community spread of the virus in the United States right now, so despite taking precautions — keeping your distance from other travelers as much as possible and wearing a mask at all times — it is very probable that some students will contract COVID-19 on their journeys home. To avoid spreading the virus to family members and others, MIT Medical recommends that all travelers quarantine for a full 14 days upon their return home.
Quarantining at home while living with family or roommates can be challenging, but it can be done. Here’s how:
- Don’t greet your family with hugs and kisses. Stay six feet apart and masked, whenever possible, until your quarantine period ends.
- Keep to yourself. If possible, stay in a bedroom alone. Don’t leave that bedroom unless it is necessary for you to use the bathroom. Have someone bring your meals to you.
- Eat your meals separately from your family. This is incredibly important. Dining together is one of the highest risk activities for viral transmission.
- Always wear a mask if you need to leave your bedroom. It’s okay to be unmasked if you are alone in a room that nobody else enters.
- Use your own bathroom, If possible. It’s best if you can designate a bathroom for your exclusive use. If that isn’t possible, set up a bathroom rotation. Clean common surfaces with a standard household disinfectant each time you use the bathroom. Wash your hands after cleaning the area.
- Don’t share towels. Use paper towels after washing your hands, or use a cloth towel that isn’t shared with anyone else.
- Separate your laundry. If you must do laundry during this time, do it yourself, away from others.
- Wash your hands often. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Finally, while you quarantine, monitor yourself closely for COVID-19 symptoms. If you develop fever, cough, or sore throat; lose your sense of smell or taste; or experience other COVID-19 symptoms, contact your personal health care provider and ask for their advice on what to do next.
It is not necessary to be tested for COVID-19 if you remain symptom free for the full 14 days.
It isn’t easy to eat Thanksgiving dinner alone or spend two weeks being so close to your family, yet so far. But these sacrifices are necessary and important to keep our loved ones and our communities safe during this time of widespread transmission of COVID-19, and it’s up to each of us to do our part.