COLLEGE STATION, TX — This year Texas A&M students will only have two days off from school for spring break.
The university made the decision early last fall to shorten the holiday. Instead of a full week free from school, students have been given this Tuesday off, which is Texas Independence Day, along with a three-day weekend starting Friday, March 19.
Dr. Shawn Gibbs, dean of the School of Public Health at Texas A&M, had a role in making the final decision about spring break."We had concerns that with a normal spring break, there would be a great deal of travel," he said. "And when people are traveling, they are at a higher risk of infection because of the circumstances of travel. Additionally, we were concerned that with some of the socializing activities that can take place during spring break, that that would put people at a higher risk for exposure.”
Brazos County Health District spokesperson, Dr. Seth Sullivan, explained, that college student as a demographic pose a unique risk when it comes to the spread of coronavirus in a community."That age group, 18 to 24 years of age - it’s an interesting dynamic," Sullivan commented. "Those individuals don’t get very sick but can spread [coronavirus] very efficiently. So it’s fascinating how the virus has used that to its advantage.”
Students had mixed reactions to the restricted holiday."I'm definitely upset because I really like that time off, but I understand why [the school] did it," said Jordyn Goodman, a Texas A&M junior.
"I kind of wish we could all stay- maybe I could sign something saying 'I promise I won’t go anywhere.' I’m conflicted," said Jordan Stawski, another Texas A&M junior. "Because I understand why they put that measure in place with COVID-19. They’re afraid of people going home. But, I do like having that week off to break up the semester.”
Dean Gibbs said, that he has previously observed spikes in outbreaks on campus following major holidays, which is why the university remains cautious about how vacations will affect public health. However, for their sacrifice, Gibbs noted that students will get to experience an earlier end to the spring semester.
"Our goal is to end this semester and have an in-person graduation in Kyle Field," he stated. "We felt that one of the ways we could help accomplish that was by reducing the chances that in mid-March, people would be traveling very heavily.”