College students get tested for COVID-19 before Thanksgiving travel

Minnesota health officials are urging residents not to take part in large Thanksgiving gatherings, and that includes college students heading home for the holidays.

Now, for those who do plan to leave, some college campuses are working to make sure students are tested and coronavirus-free before they leave.

University of Minnesota student Ella McMeans said her family wanted her to get tested before she came home.

A free, two-day long testing event put on by the university and the health department helped nearly 350 students and faculty each hour.

“They’re showing up big time for this testing event. They want to protect their families, they want to do the right thing,” said Jill DeBoer,
Director of the Health Emergency Response Office at the U.

“Better safe than sorry,” added student Dama Wlaschin. “Especially, if that resource is close to home and very viable.”

Meanwhile, some students decided to stay on campus over the break.

“It makes it hard to go down there because we’re not going to have the gathering we usually have,” said U of M student Nathan Sims.

The university is one of many across the region holding voluntary testing events this week. The University of St. Thomas will hold theirs Wednesday.

“It’s a high concern. As Governor Walz said yesterday, this is an age group 18-35 that is a higher spreader of this virus,” said Madonna McDermott with the Center for Well-Being at St. Thomas.

The University of St. Thomas expects results from the event will mean some students can’t go home.

“They know if they go home positive, they put their family at risk, so we’re anticipating that we’ll see more students isolating and quarantining on campus,” said McDermott.

But even in a rough year, students are finding ways to be thankful.

“I’m really grateful to go to the U and to be able to have resources like this that are really accessible and get a test at no out of pocket cost,” said Wlaschin.

Universities coming back for in-person or hybrid learning, including St. Thomas, will have testing events after Thanksgiving, as well.