It's a tough time to be a college student.
As universities deliberate over how to teach students under pandemic conditions, many families have made the call to send their young adults to live on-campus. As The New York Times reports, thousands of new coronavirus cases are emerging on college campuses across the country and young people make up a significant portion of coronavirus hospitalizations. Young people have very optimistic recovery rates from the virus, but at least three students have died from the virus in recent weeks.
It's important for students to go to campus with an action plan on how to stay safe, advises Dr. Valda Crowder, a Washington, D.C.-based emergency medicine physician and government health policy adviser.
“I'm telling parents to have a conversation about this like you would have a conversation about drunk driving. Sit them down and tell them, ‘This is not a joke,’” said Crowder.
An action plan might include mask-wearing, hand-washing, and a commitment to avoid large gatherings. Families should also know what medical resources are available to them—what can the university medical center do, where is the emergency hospital, and what clinics are open 24 hours a day?
As families strategize how best to navigate pandemic conditions while still encouraging their students' development, the question comes up: What do we do if our college student contracts COVID-19?
Courtesy of CDC
In the Event of an Infection
A first question might be, do you bring your infected student home?
Both White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx and the nation's top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci have said that students should stay on or near campus to prevent spreading the illness.
If you decide to bring your student home, you should take steps to prevent the transmission of the disease. Transportation should be done in a socially-distant manner (with masks). You should take care to prevent any vulnerable individuals in your circles from exposure to the disease, and be rigorous in the quarantining of your student.
If your child stays at school, it's important to note they aren't a minor. That means their medical records and health care decisions are private to them. You might consider filling out a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) release and medical power of attorney form, available online. This will enable you to be part of the decision-making as they combat the virus and receive treatment.
Concerned parents should familiarize themselves with the virus protocol at their student's school. Many schools have daily check-ins, dashboards, and officials you can connect with to stay updated. What are their quarantine conditions like? As their care needs change, become familiar with where they are receiving treatment and support.
A Case Study
Even if your school has systems in place, this is definitely the time to bring up your concerns if you have them. Seona Lisse, a mother in Potomac, Maryland, took an active role when her son tested positive at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"When he went into isolation I was trying to get in touch with the university student health center to say, ‘What is the protocol here? How are you watching my kid?' Unfortunately, nobody was really able to help me until I got the director of the student health center on the phone," recalls Lisse.
When her son was moved to a university-owned hotel for isolation, Lisse was unsure he was being checked up on frequently enough. She scheduled several virtual meetings with a physician's assistant to make sure her son was being monitored at a frequency she could be comfortable with.
Good Job, Parents
And finally, vital help for your infected student will come from your emotional support. College is already tough, without the added anxiety and isolation that comes with an infection with a worldwide disease. Parents that take the time to reach out, listen, and demonstrate their love will make a world of difference for their young adult.
Do you have campus-bound kids? What are your considerations for them during pandemic conditions? Comment below!