It's been a lonely fall on college campuses around greater Boston — and it's not over yet.
Despite warnings and restrictions, many students do plan to travel during the Thanksgiving break. But others will keep their distance.
Charlie Prest and his mother will have to put a family tradition on hold this year. They've run a five-kilometer "Turkey Trot" in Minneapolis every year for eight years.
But under Boston College policy, if Prest were to leave the state for the holiday, he couldn't return to campus until January. And he's already missed too much time there: spending 24 days alone in quarantine, mostly in a Brighton motel, after two separate exposures to someone who had tested positive.
In quarantine, "the way that you get food is you order off of a mobile app 24 hours in advance — and they knock on your door and drop a bag off," Prest said. "So you really don't see anyone for a long time.”
Prest says he adjusted to the confinement by reaching out to even extended family: “I set up Zooms with my grandparents and ate dinner with them one night. You know, called every aunt and uncle that I have.”
After all that isolation, the prospect of going home for the holiday — and the Turkey Trot — was tempting. But Prest has another streak to worry about: throughout his two quarantines, he’s a perfect 12 for 12 when it comes to negative coronavirus tests this term.
So instead, Prest will go to a small gathering with family friends in Essex Wednesday and be back on campus by Friday night. He plans to run a 5K on his own to keep the tradition going from afar.
He said his family is supportive: “My mom actually was one of the people that pushed me to stay, and try and get as much first-year experience as possible.”
Up Commonwealth Ave. at Boston University, students can leave the state for the holiday, as long as test negative beforehand and isolate for ten days after they return. (About a quarter of B.U. students plan to do just that, against the guidance of administrators and state officials. )
Liam Brackney, a BU junior, didn't want to travel home to Atlanta as case counts spike nationwide. But that doesn't mean the decision was easy.
"I am very homesick," Brackney said. "It’s definitely gonna be hard to have to Zoom my family for Thanksgiving dinner. I am probably gonna break the ice with, ‘Hey, can you pass the salt?’”
He and several friends will follow BU’s advice and stay — while setting aside time for a remote ‘Friendsgiving’ on Friday. He expects it will be more of a game night/hangout than holiday meal: “So far, I don't think anyone is necessarily cooking? I'm probably just going to order food, maybe some Chipotle?"
Eight or 10 old friends will log on from as far away as California. But Brackney also made room for new ones — he got the group’s permission to invite in any fellow Terrier looking for company on the holiday over social media:
“I’m big on holidays," Brackney said. "So I wanted to open it up to those that didn't really have anyone, because the semester has been rather eventful and rather depressing.”
So far, two have RSVPed — but at a virtual table, there's always room for more.
This segment aired on November 25, 2020.