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Procedures for Positive Cases of COVID-19

To support Northwestern community members that test positive for COVID-19 or those that may have been exposed to someone that has, the University has established a Covid Response Team (CRT), which is comprised of registered nurses that serve as case managers alongside a group of trained contract tracers.  This collective team will work with all members of the NU community and will reach out to affected individuals on a proactive basis, but can also be reached directly by calling 847-491-8422 or emailing covidcasemanagement@northwestern.edu.

The CRT will become aware of a community member that is COVID-19 positive in two primary ways:

  • Based on results reporting of a COVID-19 test administered at one of our NU testing sites or through an offsite referral to Northwestern Medicine;
  • Based on an individual’s mandatory self-reporting of a positive diagnosis identified through other means. 

What happens if you test positive?

Students

  • A member of Northwestern’s COVID Response Team will reach out to walk you through next steps. This will include direction regarding your need to self-isolate in accordance with Northwestern and CDC requirements as well as guidance regarding how Northwestern will help support your health and welfare throughout this period. 
  • If you are a student living in Northwestern residence halls, you will be moved to separate housing for the period of self-isolation. Northwestern will coordinate cleaning, food service, and other logistics for residential students in self-isolation.
  • If you are a student living off-campus, you will self-isolate at home, following suggested guidance from the CDC. Northwestern does not have isolation facilities for off-campus students, nor does Northwestern have facilities for students who live with others who may be COVID positive.
  • In the event that you receive notification of a positive result prior to hearing from the COVID Response Team, immediately begin to self-isolate pending further guidance and call 847-491-8422. This number is currently staffed with case managers and contact tracers from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. At all other times, this line will connect you to the University Health Service’s after hours call service where you can ask to speak with the physician-on-call, who will provide you with guidance for your immediate next steps, including any applicable need to move from your existing campus housing to the University’s isolation housing.
  • If at any point you require emergency medical attention, call 911 to access the most local emergency services.

Faculty or Staff

  • A member of Northwestern’s COVID Response Team will reach out to walk you through next steps. This will include direction regarding your need to self-isolate in accordance with Northwestern and CDC requirements as well as guidance regarding your path to return to work.
  • In the event that you receive notification of a positive result prior to hearing from the COVID Response Team, immediately begin to self-isolate pending further guidance and call 847-491-8422. This number is currently staffed with case managers and contact tracers from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. In addition to working with our COVID Response Team, please work directly with your primary care clinical team to notify them of your positive test and to seek direction on any follow-up care.
  • If at any point you require emergency medical attention, call 911 to access the most local emergency services.

Contact Tracing

A central aspect of the University’s COVID Response Team’s work is to also coordinate contact tracing protocols with anyone in the NU community that tests positive for COVID-19.  This work will be done in close collaboration with local public health officials.  Based on these protocols, confirmed close contacts of individuals that are COVID-19 positive will be included in the University’s COVID Response Team case management process.  Affected individuals living in campus housing will be moved to a separate quarantine facility while those living off-campus will be instructed to self-quarantine, in both cases in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Daily Monitoring while in Isolation or Quarantine

All individuals that test positive, as well as confirmed close contacts, will be followed by the CRT throughout the duration of their isolation or quarantine.  The team will be using the Service Now application to coordinate case management from the point of a positive diagnosis (or confirmed close contact) through the point at which an individual is considered to have recovered and can move out of isolation or quarantine.  On a daily basis, the Service Now application will support a simple survey that is required to be completed and will serve as a primary mechanism to triage any further needs or services that the University can provide for the health and welfare of the affected individual.

Northwestern's Response

Cleaning and Sanitizing

As part of our reactivation, the University has increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfection in all of our buildings.  In the event of a positive case, Northwestern will follow the cleaning guidelines provided by the CDC.

During the Covid Response Team’s interview with a positive individual, they will identify details on any locations (classroom, dorm, office, etc) where the positive individual spent time that should be considered for special attention. The following factors may determine the extent to which special cleaning or closure of an area will be required:

  1. The last time the positive individual was present in the area;
  2. The normal cleaning frequency of the area; and
  3. Whether the location is a shared space.

In consultation with Risk Management and the Office for Research Safety, case managers will contact Facilities for cleaning, and provide a list of locations.  In the event the location must be closed, the Covid Response Team will coordinate with Facilities and the affected school/unit to ensure impacted individuals are notified.

Campus Notification

The University is confident that our shared vigilance in adherence to safety protocols, including social distancing, properly wearing a mask, and frequently washing hands will minimize the risks posed by the spread of Covid-19.  That said, we are prepared for, and know that we will experience positive cases on campus this fall. While there is often great interest in knowing about positive cases, Northwestern owes an obligation of privacy to anyone who has tested positive for COVID.

To ensure transparency when positive cases are identified, the following communication protocols will be supported:

  • The COVID Dashboard will be updated at least weekly with information about positive cases. The webpage will share the number of  tests and new cases broken down by students and faculty/staff. When regularly testing is occurring on campus in the fall, the number of tests will be reported as well.
  • If a positive case can be attributed within a single building (such as a permanent office, or a residence hall), that location will be noted on the website. Other incidental building exposures will not be reported (such as passing through another campus building).
  • Because Northwestern is identifying positive cases and the primary building impacted, if any, and performing contact tracing to identify anyone individually at risk, units and departments will not be sending email messages every time there is a positive case on campus.
  • In certain cases, when an entire department or office space may be exposed from a contact tracing perspective, a broader communication may be issued.

FAQs

  • I have not yet received my test results.  How can I get them?  Northwestern is testing individuals on two different platforms, both of which provide for direct access to results when they become available, which is generally between one to three days, but could be slightly longer as our testing volumes increase.  If you did not receive information on how to receive your results, or are otherwise unable to access them, you can send an email to patient.support@northwestern.edu.
  • I have received a positive diagnosis and have not yet heard from the COVID Response Team.  What should I do?  Most immediately, self-isolate until you have the opportunity to speak with someone from the CRT, which you can call at 847-491-8422.  If you are calling outside of business hours, you will be directed to the after-hours call service, where you can ask to speak with the physician on-call, who can provide you with immediate guidance.  If, at any time, you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 immediately to be connected with local emergency services.