People browse Christmas trees at the Beachwood Holiday market. The Market took place at the Beechwood shopping center on Sunday, December 6th, 2020 in Athens, Georgia. (Sophie Yaeger / syager@randb.com)

With the threat of COVID-19 still looming across the country, many individuals grapple with how to avoid getting themselves and others sick. As finals end and students prepare to go home for the holidays, they face concerns on how they should keep their families safe.

The University of Georgia community should do more to prevent the spread of the virus before students head home. While it is beneficial to have such a high testing capacity, there are issues that reach beyond the school’s ability to test. The issue lies with the spread of the virus itself.

Although UGA offers a substantial amount of testing services, they are not easily accessible. Coming from an area with a large amount of coronavirus cases does not help matters. While some UGA testing services are relatively easy to get on campus, certain risks are involved with going home in the middle of a pandemic. With COVID-19 lurking at nearly every corner of the campus, additional precautions are needed to protect student’s families.

“There were some concerns, mostly that I did not want to get my parents sick, but I got tested and hoped for the best,” said Anthony Tringali, a political science and economics major from Marietta, GA. “I mean, that’s all I could do.”

Although the majority of UGA’s student population are not severely impacted from contracting COVID-19, those traveling home for the holidays expand the scope of the virus. As students leave their college campuses and return home to their families, they become potential superspreaders for the virus, infecting individuals outside of their university who might be at higher risk. Students with family members who are immunocompromised face even greater concerns.

“I think most of my friends are relatively concerned, especially those with older parents or ones that have compromised immune systems,” Tringali said. “We just tried to limit activity and exposure if we knew we were going home in the next two weeks or so.”

UGA certainly received its share of criticism at the start of the semester, and even though it gave students the opportunity to get tested in various ways before traveling home, there are still concerns. Bolton Dining Commons recently opened up to nearly full service. Many students around various parts of campus fail to wear a mask and face a lack of criticism for not wearing it properly. Even with a COVID-19 test, it can be difficult to avoid exposure.

“My family was a little concerned about me exposing elderly family members for Thanksgiving,” said student Hallie Meier, a political science major from Kennesaw, GA. “Once my test came back negative, no one was as worried.”

Still, there are issues that lie far beyond the school’s testing capacity. Simply being on campus in general can be enough to expose someone to the virus. Overall, the university has taken the steps to determine whether a student has COVID-19 or not. Nonetheless, the university should be doing more to prevent contraction of the virus itself.