The Citadel looks to prevent spreading COVID amid holiday travel

VIDEO: The Citadel looks to prevent spreading COVID amid holiday travel

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Despite health officials pleading for people to stay home, more than 50 million could be traveling for Thanksgiving according to AAA.

Fred Roark and his family will not be traveling because of the virus.

Normally, his sister comes down from Indiana but this year the risk of spreading the disease is just too high.

“I have multiple risk factors, so consequently I have to be conscience of my own personal involvement with other people,” Roark said. “I’d like my sister to be down here because I only see her once a year, and this year it will be zero times.”

While the travel estimate is a substantial decrease from the 2019, it is still a lot of people who could potentially spread the coronavirus. However, not everyone has the option to stay where they are.

Many college campuses are shutting down between Thanksgiving and the New Year, requiring students to return home.

The Citadel is taking a slightly different approach.

All year long, officials have tried to make the campus something of a bubble to keep the virus controlled. Cadet Colonel Nicholas Piacentini is in charge of the entire cadet corps and is responsible for their success and wellbeing.

“Everyone knew this year was going to be different,” Piacentini said. “It was tough at first. It’s hard to wear a mask. It’s hard to be 6-feet apart from people, but the more and more we did it, the more it became daily routine.”

At the beginning of the year, cadets were prohibited from leaving campus for two weeks. That was to protect fellow cadets, staff and faculty. Now, before anyone leaves for the winter break the quarantine is back.

Starting last weekend, cadets were required to stay on campus and away from the general public.

“This two week period is not only to protect the campus community but also to protect our friends and family at home, because now this is bigger than just campus,” Piacentini said. “We could easily take COVID home . . . going home is what’s going to be pretty deadly or can be. By staying on campus and quarantining we are really protecting our loved ones and other people’s loved ones as well.”

The ability to restrict a student’s movement is not something most colleges can do, but then again The Citadel is not like most colleges.

“Our military structure gives us a huge advantage of implementing and enforcing policies, but what is unique about The Citadel is our peer leadership structure is exquisite here,” Piacentini said. “That’s what allows us to exceed so much. It’s each one of us looking out for each one of us to do the right thing. That has been the biggest attribute to our success.”

The Citadel currently has 23 positive cases of the coronavirus.

Despite the lockdown, Piacentini is making sure there is some rest and relaxation during the closed weekends. Last weekend, food trucks were brought in and cadets could participate in a variety of activities.

This weekend there will be a cookout and the annual Thanksgiving festivities. Once cadets leave campus for Thanksgiving they will not come back until January.

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