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What Northwestern students, faculty and staff need to know about COVID-19 policy during the holidays

Information about testing, boosters and flexible work strategies
COVID-19 tests are recommended before and after Thanksgiving. Photo by Shane Collins

As Thanksgiving approaches, Northwestern has maintained a consistently healthy community since the return to campus in September, officials reported today, Nov. 18, in a message to the community.

“More than 98% of us are fully vaccinated, and our current COVID-19 positivity rate is 0.6%,” wrote Luke Figora, vice president for operations, and Priya Harjani, interim vice president for human resources. “These reassuring numbers are not an accident — they are due to your diligence and care as we have relied on a combination of vaccinations, testing, masking and symptom tracking to protect our students, faculty, staff and visitors.”

“When we have experienced minor spikes in positive cases, we have strategically employed additional testing to guard against spread in and beyond the affected communities. We will continue to monitor Northwestern’s health landscape closely through the winter and, if necessary, adjust our approach in consultation with local health officials and our own experts.”

Here’s what you need to know about Northwestern’s plans and procedures regarding COVID-19 heading into the holiday season.

Test before and after Thanksgiving 

Officials strongly encourage anyone who plans to travel or gather with friends and family over the Thanksgiving holiday to test before and after the break. Northwestern testing centers in Evanston and Chicago will offer the following extended hours to accommodate the anticipated increase in visitors before and after the break: 

  • 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22 through Wednesday, Nov. 24
  • Closed Thursday, Nov. 25 through Sunday, Nov. 28
  • 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 29 through Wednesday, Dec. 1

When you visit a testing center, you’re encouraged to pick up a free at-home test as an additional resource for monitoring your health. And anyone who experiences any symptoms of COVID-19 should avoid coming to campus but follow the processes for symptomatic testing for students and faculty and staff.

Winter Quarter begins Jan. 3

After Winter Recess, the Winter Quarter will begin on Monday, Jan. 3, and the Spring Semester on Monday, Jan. 10. Again, we encourage everyone who plans to travel or gather with friends and family to pick up an at-home test from one of our testing centers before leaving campus this fall to use immediately before your return. Additionally, all students will be required to take an in-person COVID-19 test during the first week of classes. Our testing centers in Evanston and Chicago will offer extended hours from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. from Jan. 3 through Jan. 7 and from Jan. 10 through Jan. 14. 

Consult your physician regarding boosters

According to the message, at this time Northwestern does not plan to host large-scale vaccine or booster clinics in the coming months, given the individualized nature of booster decisions and the widespread availability of vaccines in the community. Students who receive care from NU Health Service may consult a physician regarding their COVID-19 booster options. The University recommends that faculty and staff consult with their primary care physician to discuss if and when a COVID-19 booster vaccination is appropriate. Additionally, you can fill out the City of Evanston’s Vaccine Booster Survey to be notified of upcoming vaccination events. Most local pharmacies also have booster appointments available.

In the coming weeks, the University will update the vaccine disclosure form to allow individuals to report when they received boosters, and for faculty and staff to provide copies of their vaccine records in accordance with State of Illinois requirements.

Continue current work flexibility

Northwestern is assessing return-to-campus operations to learn more about the experience across schools and units. While this work takes place, it encourages continued work flexibility consistent with the Alternative Work Strategies Policy approved last summer. Schools and units should plan to continue their current strategies into calendar year 2022 as long as they continue to support academic, research and administrative needs.