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For Students: Reminders and updates for COVID-19 case management, testing and vaccine protocols

As students return to campus, Northwestern has received a large number of questions on a variety of topics related to COVID-19 protocols and procedures. We understand that due to the evolving nature of the pandemic, the guidance for testing and vaccinations can be difficult to follow.

This message provides the latest guidelines that address some of the most common questions we have received from students. If you have questions related to Northwestern’s approaches to COVID-19 testing and vaccines, please review this message carefully.

If you test positive at a Northwestern testing site

If you test positive at one of Northwestern’s testing sites, you are required to self-isolate. After you test positive, a member of Northwestern’s COVID Response Team (CRT) will reach out to you to provide instructions about your isolation period. Please self-isolate as soon as you learn of your positive test. Students who live on campus will be moved to isolation housing. If you live off-campus, you will be instructed to self-isolate at home.

If you test positive using an at-home test

If you test positive using an at-home BinaxNOW or other over-the-counter test, you are required to report that positive test result to Northwestern using the self-reporting tool. You must self-isolate until a member of the CRT provides instructions on next steps, which will include a confirmatory antigen test on campus at the Jacobs Center northwest entrance in Evanston, at a Northwestern Medicine Immediate Care Center or at the Lavin testing site in Chicago.

If you test positive at another testing location

If you test positive at another healthcare facility (not a Northwestern testing site), use the self-reporting tool to report the result to Northwestern. The CRT will contact you to provide instructions about your self-isolation period.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms

If you have COVID-19 symptoms but have not tested positive, you should badge red immediately using the Symptom Tracker application and test as soon as possible. Because of the importance of testing as quickly as possible if you have symptoms, students on the Evanston campus who badge red can now receive a symptomatic antigen test immediately by using the northwest entrance at the Jacobs Center (not the general entrance by Deering Meadow) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. You will need to show your red Symptom Tracker badge and a photo ID when you arrive to test. 

For students on the Chicago campus, the CRT will coordinate a test at a Northwestern Medicine Immediate Care Center or the Lavin testing site.

If you test negative but your symptoms persist or worsen, you should badge red again, and the CRT will provide additional instructions.

Release from isolation

Under new public health guidance, you may be released from isolation following a negative onsite (not over-the-counter) rapid antigen test five days following your initial positive test. Please note, the initial positive test date is considered “Day 0,” and a release test will occur five days later. If the second test result is negative, students will be released from isolation. If the test result is positive, students will still be considered infectious and will be required to complete the full 10-day isolation period. There will not be a second release test.

Given the level of potential infectiousness prior to Day 5, it is imperative that students not leave isolation in an attempt to test out prior to Day 5. Students who visit the Jacobs Center prior to Day 5 will be turned away from testing and required to stay in isolation for the full 10 days. 

In Evanston, students may receive a clearance antigen test by using the northwest entrance of the Jacobs Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. You will need to provide a photo ID and show your Symptom Tracker badge in order to receive the release test. 

In Chicago, students will have their release test at a Northwestern Medicine Immediate Care Center, which can be coordinated by the CRT.

If Day 5 falls on a Saturday or Sunday when testing centers are closed, release tests should be obtained the following Monday.

If you believe you have been exposed to someone who has recently tested positive for COVID-19

Given the high level of current community spread, you may learn of recent exposures to COVID-19.

  • If you have been vaccinated or received a booster within the past six months (two months for Johnson & Johnson), you are not required to quarantine. You should test at the Jacobs Center (using the Deering Meadow entrance) or at 345 E. Superior St. in Chicago on the fifth day following your date of exposure as a measure of precaution.
  • If you are unvaccinated or have not been vaccinated or boosted within the past six months (two months for J&J), you are required to quarantine for five days. You should badge red on Symptom Tracker to notify the CRT of your exposure, and they will provide guidance on your quarantine. If you live in campus housing, on-campus quarantine space will be coordinated for you.

Ongoing asymptomatic surveillance testing

The Jacobs Center in Evanston and 345 E. Superior St. in Chicago remain open Monday through Friday for asymptomatic testing with no appointment. Students who visit the Jacobs Center just for an asymptomatic test should use the South (Deering Meadow) entrance and be prepared to show a green Symptom Tracker badge.

As a reminder, students who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the previous 90 days are not required to complete asymptomatic surveillance testing (either onsite or at-home), consistent with current public health guidance.

Questions about Wildcat Wellness testing and arrival requirements (for all students in non-clinical programs)

Students who are required to observe the Wildcat Wellness period are required to complete testing during the Wildcat Wellness period before returning to in-person activity. Students who are currently positive or who have tested positive in the last 90 days should not test during the Wildcat Wellness period. If you have questions about testing requirements during the Wildcat Wellness period, please email nu-covid-testing-support@northwestern.edu.

Questions about vaccine and booster requirements

Subject to limited exceptions, all students, as well as faculty and staff who work on campus, must obtain a COVID-19 vaccination booster by Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022, or 30 days after becoming eligible, whichever is later. Please attest to your booster status and upload your documentation online. If you have questions about Northwestern’s vaccination or booster requirements, please email vaccine@northwestern.edu.

Other general COVID-19 or return to campus questions  

For other general COVID-19 questions, please email returntocampusteam@northwestern.edu.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we prepare to return to in-person classes and activities Jan. 18. Guided by the latest public health guidance, these efforts will help us understand and stabilize campus health during Wildcat Wellness and beyond.