Messages from the University

Reminder about Thanksgiving Travel

September 29, 2020

Dear students and families:

Our fall semester is off to a very good start.  We hope those of you who are studying remotely are doing well, and we appreciate everyone who has made the commitment to be here with us in St. Louis and on campus, and we are grateful to everyone for the collective public health measures to keep our community safe!  We know this has not been easy, but these practices allow us to be together.  We will continue to closely monitor conditions here on campus and in St. Louis and if at some point we can make adjustments to the restrictions currently in place, we will do so.

Today, I am writing to you about Thanksgiving Break, which this year is scheduled for Thursday, November 26 through Sunday, November 29.  For those of you who are on campus or in St. Louis, we strongly recommend you to stay here and spend the Thanksgiving holiday with us.  Limiting travel outside of the region is an important way to keep our community safe and reduce the potential for transmission of COVID-19. Of course it will be an unusual year – we will not be able to gather in person the way we typically would – but we are planning ways to safely bring everyone together to observe the occasion. Without a doubt, it will be a memorable Thanksgiving, and we would love to have you stay here with us!

In our Plan for the Fall Semester, we said “students who travel outside of the St. Louis region during the Thanksgiving break will not be allowed to return to campus and will have to complete their courses remotely. For students who choose to travel for Thanksgiving and do not return to campus, any unused meal points will roll over to the spring semester but housing will not be refunded.”  Based on current conditions, we are slightly amending this policy, and we are now strongly recommending that if you choose to travel outside of the St. Louis Region for the Thanksgiving Holiday, you stay home and complete the final three weeks of the semester remotely. We do not plan to actively monitor student travel, but ask you to please consider staying home if you do travel over the break, to help protect the health of our university community. We will be providing more detailed information about Thanksgiving Break in early November to students living in Residential Life housing, including asking students who are staying to let us know, so we will have an accurate count of who will be on campus.

This guidance is in place for your safety.  While we know that travel can be done safely, we also know that most students traveling home – both in St. Louis and outside of the region – will be in contact with family and friends, increasing the potential for exposure to COVID-19, and elevating the risk for our campus community if students return to campus for the final three weeks of the semester in December.  We know the greatest risk for the spread of COVID occurs when people come into contact with a large number of people while not wearing masks or physically distancing.  Traditional Thanksgiving activity elevates these risks.

The residence halls will remain open during Thanksgiving Break and we are working now to finalize special meal preparations as well as programming for all of us who will be here for the short break.  For students living in Residential Life housing, you will receive an email in early November, asking you to confirm your Thanksgiving plans.  Our faculty are aware that we will have some students who will choose to complete the fall semester remotely.

This guidance is all based on current conditions in the St. Louis region and across the country, and trends that we can anticipate in the near future. Unfortunately, there are some models that are predicting higher levels of COVID-19, both regionally and nationally, as we move into the fall/winter season, so we all need to continue to be flexible as we plan for the months ahead. We are now also beginning the process of assessing what the calendar might look like beyond the fall semester, including winter break and the spring semester.  We will communicate those decisions in early November.  This will include details about the spring semester return-to-campus plan for COVID surveillance testing.

If you have questions, please email and refer to the WashU Together website for the latest information about COVID-19 planning at Washington University.


Robert M. Wild, PhD
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs