As Thanksgiving break approaches, University administration urged students on Oct. 21 to consider getting tested for COVID-19 and obtaining a flu vaccination before traveling. PCR saliva testing sites and hours are available on BeSafe and appointments can be scheduled through Time2Test. While some students are opting to get tested for COVID-19 prior to leaving the Charlottesville area, others cited a level of comfort with traveling given current case levels.
The University shifted to increasingly normal operations this semester with the prevalence of vaccinations and booster shots. In anticipation of holiday travel, students weigh vaccination status, potential of COVID-19 exposure and concern for transmission as they decide whether to get tested before leaving Grounds.
In preparation for the break, Interim Dean of Students Julie Carrucio sent a University-wide email Oct. 21 advising students to consider obtaining a pre-departure COVID-19 test if they plan to leave Grounds to see family or friends. Saliva testing is available Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Scott Stadium’s East Gate. University-administered testing will close starting Nov. 24 and will reopen at the Emmet/Ivy Garage Nov. 29.
Caruccio cited two motives for acquiring a pre-departure test — public transportation requirements and concern for the well-being of others.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, fully-vaccinated individuals can fly domestically without obtaining a negative COVID-19 test result prior to air travel. Select airlines may still require proof of a negative COVID-19 test, however. All international flights entering — and many exiting — the U.S. require a negative test result.
In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to communities beyond Charlottesville, U.Va. Health produced an infographic detailing COVID-19-safe travel preparations — including situations in which one needs proof of vaccination, testing requirements, and available testing times.
This guidance is a part of U.Va. Health’s prevalence testing program, which requires students not vaccinated against COVID-19 to take weekly viral PCR saliva tests through the University’s BeSAFE saliva testing program. The University first instituted a prevalence testing program in fall 2020 to identify and contain the spread of COVID-19 in the University community through the quick identification of positive cases in symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers.
Some students shared concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19 as students travel for the approaching Thanksgiving break, which begins Wednesday.
Second-year Engineering student Adam Dirting will spend Thanksgiving with extended family. Dirting said he is considering getting a test before Wednesday to ensure that he does not transmit the virus to vulnerable or unvaccinated loved ones.
“My dad's side is less aware of the safety measures needed to prevent COVID-19 transmission, so I'm a little concerned about that aspect of it,” Dirting said. “But besides that, everyone else in my family that I will be seeing is vaccinated. A lot of people are older, which is concerning.”
Second-year College student Mary Celentano said that COVID-19 has not been on her mind as much this semester relative to previous semesters, adding that she feels less inclined to get tested through U.Va. Health before leaving as she only plans to see her immediate family during the break.
“I don't feel particularly worried [about returning home] because thus far I haven't been exposed to COVID-19 at all,” Celentano said. “I think that this semester has been a lot less stressful than last year in that way.”
Despite her lack of exposure to the virus this semester, Celentano said she will likely take one of the rapid tests she purchased at the beginning of the semester before returning home for Thanksgiving.
In anticipation of being around extended family for Thanksgiving, second-year College student Lela Trainer said she intends to ensure she is as safe as possible – she hopes to take advantage of the COVID-19 resources the University offers to students.
“I'm definitely going to get a test here before I even go to my grandparents house here in Charlottesville, just because U.Va. is making it available,” Trainer said. “I see no good reason not to get tested just to be extra safe.”
Students are advised to plan in advance so that they may receive their test results prior to the start of Thanksgiving break.
Students who wish to get tested may schedule a test with BeSafe. Walk-in testing prior to Nov. 23 hours take place Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Scott Stadium’s East Gate and Fridays 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Emmet/Ivy parking garage. After Thanksgiving, walk-in testing will only take place at the Emmet/Ivy garage.