Indiana – As COVID numbers remain at an alarming rate around the state, college students prepare to head home for holiday break.

“Let’s be clear, Indiana is not doing well in general,” explains Aaron Carroll, Indiana University’s (IU) Director of Mitigation Testing, “We have been posting record numbers day after day for weeks.”

IU is offering free departure testing for all of their students, faculty, and staff starting November 15.

“That just allows people to assure everything, that they might be seeing family over the course of the holiday, that they are coming in with a clean test for COVID,” details IU spokesperson Chuck Carney.

Next semester the university will begin with online courses in January before allowing students back on campus in February. Students are expected to need a negative COVID test to get back on campus, which is similar to the school’s protocol this semester.

The school has been working to complete their on campus testing labs. While they are in use, they are expected to be fully operational by the time students return Spring semester.

“It will have probably more of an impact once we return because we will have up to 25,000 tests per week across IU,” says Carney.

Carroll urges all college students to stay vigilant while home on break.

“A negative result does not mean that you strip off a mask and go to huge thanksgiving gatherings. We still need to do all the things to keep us safe,” says Carroll.

Purdue is recommending that their students get tested upon arrival to their vacation destination. For students who can’t find free local testing, departure testing is available at the Protect Purdue Health Center starting November 14. Ball State plans to announce their departure and return plans later this week.