A Message About Holiday Travel Guidelines and COVID Testing

Friday, November 13, 2020

Dear SMU Students,

As you get ready to leave campus for Thanksgiving, it’s important to recognize the potential risks associated with going home to family members who may be vulnerable to viral spread. Your best defense is to wear a face mask to reduce the chance of catching or spreading COVID-19, but there are other things you can do. 

Before you go, closely adhere to all the safety protocols we’ve been following. You know the drill: mask up, socially distance, wash your hands frequently, avoid large gatherings and limit your exposure to others – especially those other than your roommates, housemates and regular social group. If you haven’t already, get your flu vaccine. They are available at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center and from a mobile flu shot cart that will be roving campus next week.

If you have especially vulnerable family members, you may want to take additional precautions, such as quarantining by staying home, only going out for class and picking up food or necessities, and always wearing a mask.

If your destination is outside of Texas, check with your home state for additional travel or safety restrictions. A few places may require a 14-day quarantine or COVID-19 test once you arrive. If you need a test before departure, you can schedule an appointment up to a week in advance by calling the Health Center at 214-768-2141. If you are not on the SMU Student Health insurance plan, the Health Center will bill the cost of the test to your student account. In most cases, your insurance will cover the charge after you file a claim for reimbursement. Allow up to three days to receive your results, and remember you must register by 4 p.m. the day before you go in for the test. COVID-19 testing is also available at off-campus sites with your insurance, if needed after hours. 

Keep in mind that testing for COVID-19 is not foolproof and a negative test could give you a false sense of security. The test provides a snapshot in time, meaning a negative test only indicates that you don’t have evidence of the infection at the time you are tested. However, the virus’s incubation period is up to 14 days, making it possible to test negative and simultaneously carry it. Also remember you could pick up the virus on the way home and spread it, even if you didn’t feel sick. More tips and recommendations for safe travel and celebrations are listed below. 

Thank you for your efforts in making this semester as healthy as possible. Please continue to follow these same safety measures during your winter break while enjoying time with family and friends. We look forward to seeing you again on the Hilltop next semester. 


Dr. Randy Jones,

Executive Director, Dr. Bob Smith Health Center

COVID-19 Status and Travel

  • If positive, you should not travel by air and preferably alone if by car, and then isolate for 10 days once you arrive at your destination.
  • If negative, but identified as a close contact, you should not travel by air and preferably alone if by car, then quarantine for a total of 14 days.
  • If negative, you may travel using caution and following safety protocols.

Travel recommendations

  • Check for any requirements or restrictions at your travel destination.
  • By car:
    • Driving alone is best.
    • Wear a face mask if in a car with others, and sit in the back seat if someone else is driving.
    • Open the windows if conditions permit.  
    • Pack food/snacks or use drive-through or curbside pickup.
    • Wash hands after pumping gas.
  • By plane, train or bus:
    • Strictly follow safety measures such as mask-wearing and hand hygiene.
    • Take a direct route if possible, and avoid traveling at peak times if you can.    
    • Carry and use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) frequently. 
    • Use a disinfecting/sanitizing wipe to clean touchable surfaces. 
  • If sick or exposed, delay travel:
    • Anyone who is feeling ill, or has been recently diagnosed (within 10 days) or exposed to someone with COVID-19 (within 14 days) should self-isolate. 
    • Follow guidance from your health care provider regarding when recommended isolation/quarantine periods are complete and travel can be resumed. 

Upon arriving home, the most cautious approach is to quarantine for the first 14 days. This is especially important if there are vulnerable, higher-risk family members living in the home.

Quarantine recommendations

  • Wear a mask and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet when in the presence of others.   
  • Eat meals in a private space or outdoors socially distanced from others.
  • Use separate serving ware, utensils, glasses and plates.  
  • Use a separate bathroom from other family members. 
  • If a separate bathroom is not available, disinfect the bathroom after each use. 
  • Avoid physical contact, including hugging, kissing and shaking hands. 
  • Restrict movement within and outside the home.  

If quarantine is not possible:

  • Stay physically distant from family household members for the first 14 days at home.
  • Wear a face mask and avoid close contact, including hugging and shaking hands. 
  • Consider placing HEPA filter units in the home and opening windows to increase air circulation.