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Tenn. colleges will take different approaches to stop virus spread from students over Thanksgiving

Posted at 6:33 AM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 07:35:13-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Colleges are trying to minimize the spread of COVID-19 over Thanksgiving break.

At Vanderbilt University, undergraduate students must take an exit test before leaving. If a student tests positive for COVID-19, they can remain in on-campus quarantine, be picked up and driven home by family or personally drive home immediately. The last day of in-person classes for the semester is November 20.

Lipscomb University students will not return to in-person learning until at least 2021. After Thanksgiving, they will finish the semester taking classes and exams virtually. However, about 40% of the student body is choosing to finish their studies in their dorm room rather than at home. These include student athletes who are participating in winter sports.

Infectious disease specialists expect students to want to be on campus, but advise that they think long and hard about their choice.

"The people who are really helping keeping the universities going are the people most at risk," said Dr. David Aronoff, the director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

School officials at Tennessee State University would like their students to get tested before they leave and also before they come back to campus. TSU is finalizing it's recommendations.

Dr. Aronoff said it's important that students do as much as they can to keep the people around them healthy.

"If people have been self-isolating or quarantining, reducing the likelihood that they've gotten infected, and then they can get a negative test beforehand even understanding the limitations that sometimes negative tests can be falsely negative, but that's another layer of reassurance," Dr. Aronoff said.

Austin Peay is moving all courses to an online format after Thanksgiving, but some buildings will remain open for students to study in.

At Middle Tennessee State University, the plan is to finish the semester with in-person classes, but the school is monitoring rising infection numbers in Rutherford County.

"We need to remember that we could be infected right now and not know it. And so as we think about our loved ones, important older adults, people who are involved in keeping our universities functioning, who may have common conditions like high blood pressure... our actions play really important roles in protecting those around us," Dr. Aronoff explained.

Read Dr. Aronoff's recent article in MedPage today about COVID-19, traveling and the Thanksgiving holiday.