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The coronavirus has put a new spin on the usual college packing list — especially now that the highly contagious BA.5 subvariant has renewed concerns about COVID-19 infections.
As students head to college campuses in the middle of a new wave of the pandemic, they still need that mattress pad and shower caddy, but now they should also bring hand sanitizer, a good supply of masks and maybe a pulse oximeter, too.
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With most colleges offering face-to-face classes, many students will be back in dorms, apartments and fraternity and sorority houses. They’ll be exposed to new people — and possibly to COVID-19.
So how should parents equip college-age children to give them the best chance of staying healthy — or recovering quickly — if students do contract the coronavirus?
Students' pandemic necessities
Start with masks — and a lot of them, says Leann Poston, a physician and educator who is a professional content contributor at Invigor Medical. At some schools, masking in class and in public spaces like the library may be mandated or optional, but in either scenario it’s important for students to have masks on hand.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), loosely woven cloth masks provide the least protection, layered finely woven ones offer more protection, well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) provide the highest level of protection. But make sure these masks are comfortable, because students may have to spend hours wearing them.
Some college students may spurn masks, but it’s important that they have them available, Poston says.
“College students are most likely to wear cloth masks because they are the most accessible and cheapest. Any mask choice is better than none if they have symptoms,” Poston says. “Even a cloth mask will help prevent viral-laden droplets from being expelled into the air.”