Open Dialogue is Key for Sheltering at Home for the Holidays

Pitt experts know moving back home during a pandemic and sheltering in place around loved ones isn’t easy. Here are some of their tips for prioritizing your health and wellbeing during this time and throughout the holidays—and talking to friends and family about the same. As Pitt students head home for the Thanksgiving holiday, they are being told to shelter in place for at least four days upon arrival.

Students who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or in isolation or quarantine at the time that their shelter-in-place period would begin are advised to consult with their campus’ Student Health Service regarding a plan for their transition home.

But students who are asymptomatic at the end of the term are asked to follow the shelter-in-place protocols from the COVID-19 Medical Response Office.

Will it be that easy? What if hometown family members and relatives are not taking the virus seriously?

Jay Darr, director of the University Counseling Center, says an open dialogue is key. “Students who are transitioning back to the home environment should have a conversation with their household members, prior to returning, on what their expectations are and what the health and safety plan for the family will be,” he said.

He says it’s possible those expectations won’t match those of the student.

“In those cases, we encourage students to focus on what they can control, find common ground and move towards a positive outcome,” Darr said. “One approach is to lead by example—take the home shelter-in-place recommendations seriously, elbow fives, air fives, mask wearing, physical distancing and good community practices.”

Faculty and staff may also be facing similar conversations with their family and friends and decisions about what’s safest for them.

We encourage students to focus on what they can control, find common ground and move towards a positive outcome.

Jay Darr, director of the University Counseling Center

“We’re seeing dramatic increases in cases across the country,” said John V. Williams, chief of the School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases, Henry L. Hillman Endowed Chair in Pediatric Immunology, professor of pediatrics and director of Pitt’s COVID-19 Medical Response Office (CMRO).

“In Pennsylvania, we have new mask mandates and restrictions to try to reverse this trend. We know people are tired, feeling lonely and missing gatherings. That’s true for many of us in the CMRO, too. But we also know that transmission is mostly coming from private parties and gatherings. Having virtual gatherings now means more of us will be around to gather in person when it’s safe to do so.”

Should students feel stressful during this period, they are encouraged to use Pitt’s Therapy Assistance Online (TAO) to better understand their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. TAO offers a variety of wellness activities and tools. Students may also contact the Counseling Center 24/7 at 412-648-7930 or visit its website for additional resources. The Counseling Center has plenty of open counselors available.

Faculty and staff can reach out to Life Solutions, the assistance program whose website offers a special section on COVID-19 and many other resources and tips for relieving stress.

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