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Winter Wildcat Wellness

Modified Quarantine for Students

 Northwestern is requiring students to participate in “Wildcat Wellness,” a two-week period that aims to reduce the chances of spreading COVID-19 and to better position the campus community to start the term healthy and well. 

All Northwestern students who intend to return to campus—including those living in on-campus residence halls, fraternity and sorority houses, and off-campus residences—will move through the Wildcat Wellness stages before in-person activity begins. All students are expected to arrive on campus or at their off-campus residence by January 8.

Wildcat Wellness will be January 3 – January 17 for most programs, including Kellogg. The Law School’s Wellness period will be January 11 – 24. Anyone arriving after January 8 is expected to follow a 14-day Wellness period starting upon arrival following the stages and requirements outlined below.

The initial stage of Wellness is an arrival-testing period, during which students must primarily remain in their rooms or residences until they complete COVID-19 testing. Undergraduates must receive two negative tests before advancing to the next stage, and graduate students must receive one. Find details on testing, including scheduling arrival tests. All students must participate in Wildcat Wellness. Limited exceptions will be made for graduate students in active research labs who have not left Evanston and identified student athletes who are following a customized testing protocol. Details on those exceptions are outlined below.

Prior to arrival on campus, students are expected to follow CDC guidance on travel and holiday gatherings. Students also are encouraged to self-quarantine for two weeks prior to coming to campus to increase their chances of arriving healthy.

Wildcat Wellness Stages

  • Stage A – Arrival Testing Period: During the testing period, students will remain in their on-campus room or off-campus residence until they receive the results of their arrival test or tests. Students must limit social interactions, avoiding any non-roommate in-person social interactions during this period.
    • All undergraduate students must receive two negative tests before they move to Stage B. They should take the first test the day they arrive in Evanston, whether they are moving into campus residence halls or off-campus housing. All undergraduate students will then need a second negative test before moving into Stage B of Wildcat Wellness. After completing these arrival tests, students then move into their regularly weekly testing protocol.
    • Graduate students are required to have a negative COVID test during the Wildcat Wellness period, before coming to campus for in-person classes or other activities. Most graduate and professional students should plan to complete their initial testing during the week of January 11.
    • On-campus undergraduates will remain in their residence halls, primarily in their rooms, until they receive their second negative test results. During this time, meals will be delivered to residence halls and fraternity and sorority houses for students on University meal plans.
    • Off-campus undergraduates may not come to campus for any reason other than medical needs, including completing testing, prior to receiving the second negative test. Off-campus students must self-quarantine, leaving their residences only for essential activities, listed below, such as grocery shopping and other core needs.
  • Stage B – Post-Arrival Testing Period: After students receive negative test results on their arrival tests, they will transition into the second period of Wildcat Wellness. In this stage, students may leave their on-campus room or off-campus residence only to perform the narrow set of allowed activities. Students must return to their residences and rooms no later than 4 p.m. daily and remain there until 10 a.m. the following morning.
    • Students who need to go to essential jobs that cannot be performed remotely can leave their residence halls outside of this timeframe for those activities only.
    • During this Stage, meals will continue to be delivered to residence halls and fraternity and sorority houses.
    • The first week of classes in most programs will be delivered remotely.
  • Stage C – In-Person Activity: On January 18, in-person activity will begin for those students who have completed required testing, have quarantined for at least 10 days, and are not in quarantine or isolation.
    • The scope of in-person activity that will begin January 18 will depend on positivity rates of arrival tests and adherence to Wildcat Wellness expectations. At a minimum, it is anticipated that in-person instruction will begin January 19. If needed, there could be a need to delay access to non-academic in-person activity.
    • Dining halls are slated to begin service in stage C; however, they may be open only from grab-on-go dining. If needed, meal delivery to residence could continue instead of opening dining halls.
    • Any in-person activity must adhere to community expectations regarding wearing face coverings and maintaining 6-foot physical distancing

Students, faculty and staff participating in Chicago programs must adhere to the city’s Emergency Travel Order.

Many non-essential campus facilities may have restricted access during Wildcat Wellness. Core services, like Health Services, will be open.

All students, whether living in residence halls or off campus, must comply with these requirements.  The compliance and behavior of our whole community will be extraordinarily important during this period and can help prevent the extension of the modified quarantine into the week of January 18.

Campus-wide Modified Quarantine

Throughout the term, the University will closely monitor the number of students, faculty, and staff who test positive for COVID-19, the number of students in quarantine and isolation, and guidance from state and local authorities. Based on these inputs, the University may issue a return to Stage B or Stage A of Wildcat Wellness, or may make the difficult decision to effectively close on-campus housing and dining.

Goals of Wildcat Wellness

The goals of Wildcat Wellness are to:

  • Reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19;
  • Help students coming to the Evanston and Chicago communities to be better positioned to start the quarter healthy and well;
  • Create a clear and equitable way for our campus community to adhere to CDC and local travel quarantine guidance for the local community;
  • Be a responsible member of our neighboring communities, and
  • Give our students, faculty, and staff the best possible conditions for a successful start to the term.

Implications for Faculty and Staff

Faculty and staff are also expected to observe Wildcat Wellness and refrain from scheduling in-person activities except those that are essential or necessary to support students’ return and cannot be delivered remotely. Schools and units should evaluate whether faculty and staff should be on campus or remote and how best to support Wildcat Wellness. Faculty and staff who live or work in Chicago must adhere to the city’s Emergency Travel Order.


Learn more about what activities are allowed and required during this period. 

Allowed Activities during Wildcat Wellness

After completing arrival testing, students may leave their residence for essential activities during Stage B of Wildcat Wellness. These include both on and off-campus tasks, such as:

  • Health and safety tasks, including activities essential to the health and safety of their family or household members (including, but not limited to, pets).
  • Obtaining services and supplies for themselves and their household members, such as, groceries and food, household products, supplies they need to work from home, textbooks, and banking.
  • Essential academic preparations, including required testing, performance practice connected to an academic program, picking up their Wildcard and textbooks.
  • Essential work that cannot be performed remotely. If your work is essential, you cannot perform it remotely, and you have received your negative test result(s), essential work is permitted, though please consider modifying your schedule to stay at home through Wildcat Wellness and work between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on those days.
  • Engaging in outdoor activity such as walking, hiking, running, and biking.
All of these aforementioned activities must be performed while wearing face coverings, especially where maintaining social distance of six feet is impractical. These activities that are considered essential must only be performed by those who are well and without symptoms. Those with symptoms or sick should stay home.

COVID-19 Testing

All students living on campus and off campus will receive a COVID-19 test. As described above, negative test results (two tests for undergraduates and one test for graduate students) are required for on-campus students to move to Stage B of Wildcat Wellness and for off-campus students to be able to come to campus, other than for medical needs.

Additional information about testing, quarantine and isolation, and procedures for positive cases can be found on the COVID-19 Health webpages.

Community Expectations

It is critical that we each take responsibility for maintaining the health of our community. During the Winter Recess, students, faculty, and staff are asked to abide by safety and hygiene standards, including those regarding face coverings, social distancing, limiting gatherings, hand washing and sanitizing, and cleaning shared surfaces. Students are expected to follow CDC guidance on travel and holiday gatherings. Students also are encouraged to self-quarantine for two weeks prior to coming to campus to increase their chances of arriving healthy. As a condition of returning to campus, students, faculty and staff are required to follow policies, protocols and guidance designed to protect everyone’s health. All students must:

Community members who violate these expectations may face disciplinary actions. For students, this could mean a range of responses from a reminder in cases of unintentionally not following guidance to separation from the University in severe cases of repeat offenses of intentionally disregarding expectations.

Students received specific information about training and community expectations.

Exceptions to Wildcat Wellness

The following groups will observe Wildcat Wellness with modifications:

  • Due to access to daily testing for some teams and the start of competition early in the Winter Term, some athletes will have a modified form of Wildcat Wellness to allow for conditioning and in some cases team practice with safety precautions in place.  Each team will be provided a schedule of allowed activities that is modified based on the team’s competition schedule and degree of required contact.
  • Graduate students in active research labs will adhere to the following guidance: 
    • Students who have not traveled to states experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 cases as identified by the Chicago Emergency Travel Order can return to labs during the Wellness period
    • Students who have traveled to a state identified by the Travel Order, or international destination, must:
      • In Evanston, quarantine for 14 days OR take a COVID test after 7 days of quarantine, which, if negative, will clear their return to the lab
      • In Chicago, follow the Chicago Emergency Travel Order
        • Following travel to orange states: quarantine for 10 days OR receive a negative test prior to arrival in Chicago
        • Following travel to red states: quarantine for 10 days

Those with exceptions from the Wildcat Wellness program are still asked to support the campus community in a healthy start to the academic year. Other than their exempted activities, student athletes and graduate students in active research labs should approach this as a modified stay-at-home period while still:

  • Adhering to the Illinois’ Restore Illinois Plan Phase 4 with Tier 3 mitigations as applicable
  • Minimizing social interaction outside of essential activities.
  • Limiting exposure to groups larger than 10 (outside of research, varsity sports practice, etc.).
  • Practicing social distancing and wearing face coverings in all public places.
  • Following expectations posted on campus.

What to Expect

Wildcat Wellness will change the way students spend their first two weeks of the term.

For Students Living Off Campus

Students living off-campus will be expected to fully participate in Wildcat Wellness.

  • Students should plan to arrive in the area between January 3 and 8. If you arrive in Evanston after January 8, your two-week Wildcat Wellness begins upon your arrival.
  • Virtual programming will be offered. You should follow the stages of Wildcat Wellness based on the timing and results of your COVID-19 test. No on-campus programming or events will be offered in-person.
  • Essential on-campus services will be available for off-campus students as they are for residential students once negative tests are recorded (two for undergraduate students and one for graduate students).
  • Off-campus students are expected to follow similar guidelines as students in residence halls. Students can leave their individual living quarters to exercise, buy groceries, or take care of essential functions only — just like you might have done during the stay-at-home order.
  • There can be no social events, gatherings, or parties on or off-campus during this time.
  • Students should wear face coverings outdoors and in public spaces and should not go to bars or restaurants, and they should not host or attend large gatherings and parties.

For Students Living On Campus

For students living in residence halls and in fraternity and sorority houses, the stay-at-home guidelines should guide your behavior:

  • Residential move-in will begin on January 4. If you move in to your housing after January 8, your two-week Wildcat Wellness begins upon your arrival. You should follow the stages of Wildcat Wellness based on the timing and results of your COVID-19 tests. Additional details about move-in can be found on the Residential Services website or through your house corporation representative for fraternities and sororities.
  • Room sizes and arrangements have been considered to safely accommodate residents.
  • In Stages A and B, meals will be delivered to residence halls. Meals in fraternity and sorority houses will be served in the chapter facilities.
  • Virtual programming – both academic and social – will be available.
  • Students can have socially distanced, conversations using face coverings in shared spaces on their assigned floor.
  • Students should wear face coverings outdoors and in public spaces and should not go to bars or restaurants, and they should not host or attend large gatherings and parties.

Explore undergraduate programming during the Wildcat Wellness period.