Giving up Thanksgiving traditions

Students are discouraged about the holiday season

Griffin Ell / Arts Director

Staying safe and socializing is an impossible balance to reach this year.

Taking into account risks for themselves and others, some Keene State Students are struggling to look forward to the holiday season because their plans have changed.

“We’re already planning as if there’s going to be a lockdown and I am definitely looking forward to it less. I like big family gatherings. I have a big extended family and I am going to miss that a lot,” said junior Tyler McCormick.

The last day of in-person classes at the college is Tuesday, November 24. Not all students have to stay until Tuesday, but there are some who do. These students must travel home one or two days before Thanksgiving.

McCormick’s parents are able to drive him home because he is leaving the weekend before. He said he thinks the college should consider allowing students to leave earlier. Some have to take public transportation because they are leaving on a weekday.

“I have a friend from New Jersey who is going to have to take a bus down to New York and will have to take public transit through New York,” said McCormick.

is going to have to take a bus down to New York and will have to take public transit through New York,” said McCormick.

Sophomore Lila Morgan agreed and said students could use the extra time to quarantine a bit or leave right after they get tested at the college.

“If students are leaving on Tuesday and Thanksgiving is on Thursday, that is very little time. Some people have to fly, which could be dangerous,” said Morgan.

Wayne Hartz, a safety occupational health applied sciences professor, is a leader in the COVID Management Project. President Melinda Treadwell approached him last semester because he used to work for L.L Bean and assisted them with risk management. He was hired as the Safety Industrial Hygiene Specialist and left as a Senior Manager of the Corporate Program, so he has experience in managing risks and ensuring the safety of others. Treadwell appointed him to assist with testing, to help communicate between different groups of people and to overall work on making sure Keene State is the safest it can be.

Hartz commented that he completely understands students’ concerns about traveling home and spreading COVID to their family or community.

“We’re actually going to cancel our family Thanksgiving this year. There’s too much information and research now that says it all depends on the circles that we travel in and who could be exposed and you just don’t know. I’m at higher risk, my wife is higher risk and we have two grandchildren, so we want to be extra conservative,” said Hartz.

He did have advice for students traveling and some possible solutions to make them feel a bit safer.

“If I were in that situation [having to take public transportation], I would wear my mask all the time. I would not eat or drink on the bus. I wouldn’t take my mask off for anything. Get a little thing of hand sanitizer and be super careful of what you touch. Also try to sit as far away from other people. If there is someone behind you with little kids, just get up and move,” said Hartz.

He also said that most buses and planes have special filtrations through the air vents. He encourages students to ask if they are in place or available. If no one knows, shut the air vent.

For students who are driving home, he said that carpooling can be risky. Cars enclose the space and do not allow people to be six feet apart. Without masks on, the virus can easily spread.

“There are instances tied to carpooling and people not wearing a mask. You’re taking a huge gamble. The person sitting across from you could have the virus and you’d never know it,” said Hartz.

If students are leaving on Monday or Tuesday, Hartz did say they could try to get a rapid test through The Wellness Center. He said that if a student is worried and has any symptoms at all, they can call and get a rapid test before traveling.

“If people have symptoms at any time, if you develop a runny nose and it’s new, call The Wellness Center,” said Hartz.

There are many limitations to the rapid test though. Also known as antigen testing, the test can be very accurate and helpful for someone who has some symptoms. When it is used on someone who is nonsymptomatic, it can result in a false positive. If someone has a false positive, they will have to quarantine until they get back a test result from the PCR nasal swab test.

“This virus is such a challenge. Rapid tests have real limitations and you don’t want a false positive,” said Hartz.

The holiday season may prove to be disheartening for some families and there is not one answer to give. Every situation is different, but Hartz wants to encourage everyone to be extra cautious leading up to Thanksgiving. This may or may not allow them to get together with their families for the holiday, but it can help keep case numbers from increasing when students go home across the country.

“You have to stay super sharp the last two weeks before going home. Treat everybody as if they are infected. It’s particularly hard for students in college. I really do understand this and I wish I had an easy answer,” said Hartz.


Kiana Joler can be contacted at:

Share and Enjoy !


Leave a Reply