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The New College Drop-Off

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They are laser-focused on the latest updates from other schools, Mr. Dunbar, 57, said, “because it seems like when one rolls out a new policy, others follow it.”

Other parents may have their offspring around the house a bit longer.

Mr. Lorence, the management consultant from Needham, Mass., expected to drop off Matthew at New York University in August. But just last week Matthew decided to stay home until October. His classes are all online, and his musical performance was canceled. He thinks a later move-in would perhaps help him snag an apartment with reduced rent.

Meanwhile, the Lorences’ oldest daughter, Audrey, will be a first-year student at University of Pittsburgh. For her drop-off in mid-August, the entire family (Mark, his wife, Jean, and younger siblings Meredith and Luke) wanted to go along for the ride. Now it will only be the parents, and they struggled on whether to stay with family in town — grandparents or an uncle’s family usually host them. This year, they decided to stay in a hotel.

“Uncertainty is the word to describe it,” Mr. Lorence said.

Other families are deciding to fly or drive. Sure, air circulation on planes is excellent, and the journey should be shorter, but it’s hard to know how full the flight will be or if flight attendants will be enforcing mask-wearing. There are also fewer nonstop flights between smaller cities, fewer flights period, and airlines have been frequently changing times and dates of flights to optimize revenues. All these headaches from the air need to be weighed against a drive that might require hours in the car, food stops and a hotel stay.

The Feder-Johnson family of Madison, Wis., typically flies to New Orleans each school year, to drop off their daughter, Nora, at Tulane University. This year, mother, father and daughter are driving the 14 hours each way. At restroom and fuel stops, Nora’s mother, Elizabeth Feder, a public health researcher, will be looking to see if the people around her are taking the necessary precautions.

“If we pull into a gas station and the people there aren’t wearing masks, we’ll go on by to the next one,” Dr. Feder, 62, said.

Louisiana has had more than 100,000 Covid cases (including a significant increase in July), so when they arrive in New Orleans, instead of exploring the sights, hearing live music and eating at favorite restaurants as they did in years past, the family plans to eat takeout and make “essential trips only” to help Nora set up her home. Household items will be ordered online and picked up curbside.


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