For Faculty and Staff: Return to in-person classes and activities next week
Dear faculty and staff,
With the pending completion of the Wildcat Wellness stabilization period, combined with Northwestern’s extensive health protocols and the relative safety of our highly vaccinated community, we are ready to resume in-person classes and activities Jan. 18.
As we’ve shared in previous communications, we have been monitoring multiple data points as we evaluate our response to the pandemic. Currently, Northwestern’s COVID-19 case numbers and test positivity rates are declining, and positivity rates among asymptomatic individuals remain low. We will update the COVID-19 dashboard with this current data later today. Additionally, the number of residential students who are in isolation housing has come down significantly from a peak earlier this week as students test out under the new isolation guidelines we shared in December.
In preparation for our return, Northwestern hosted two webinars this week—one for the full community and one specifically for faculty—that detailed the University’s current health environment, health requirements and procedures, community supports and classroom expectations. If you were unable to watch them live, we encourage you to view the recordings.
We provide the following updates today as a final preparation for our return to in-person classes and activities.
Student testing requirement extension
Next week, we will require all undergraduate and graduate students who are registered for in-person classes to complete at least one COVID-19 test at one of our testing sites. Students who have tested positive in the past 90 days do not need to complete this requirement, and students in evening and weekend programs will be asked to follow guidelines from their programs to meet this extended surveillance testing expectation. Please note: When our testing sites open on Tuesday, Jan. 18, they will return to their typical operating hours of 9 a.m. through 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Extending required student testing provides an extra data point to monitor our transition back to campus and, as always, we will monitor trends and adjust plans if warranted. Additionally, we will open the Jacobs Center testing site for symptomatic testing—but not asymptomatic testing—from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Monday, Jan. 17. These will be the hours for symptomatic testing at the Jacobs Center from Monday through Friday going forward.
Due to continued national supply constraints, Northwestern is suspending distribution of at-home tests at the Evanston and Chicago testing sites for another week to ensure we can continue to prioritize on-site and programmatic testing needs. We continue to work with our vendors to secure more at-home tests and will communicate when they are available again for pick-up.
Campus health protocols
As we announced last week, we now recommend wearing a high-quality mask—at minimum a surgical mask—in shared campus environments. Students are required to wear a surgical or higher quality mask in the classroom, and it is recommended to wear a cloth mask over it. Surgical masks are readily available in the entryways of most buildings on campus and are proven to be more effective than cloth masks. Instructors are strongly encouraged to wear masks while lecturing and should remove their masks only with extreme distancing, such as when teaching at the front of a large lecture hall.
To additionally support this shift over the next few weeks, Northwestern has procured a limited quantity of KN95 masks for people who regularly come into contact with other individuals during their day-to-day responsibilities, including instructors and TAs, testing site staff and others. We will share additional details on our Face Coverings and Face Masks webpage when they are available.
This updated masking guidance, coupled with a robust testing program, are our best tools for managing on-campus spread of COVID-19. With these measures in place, and in alignment with current public health advice, contact tracing will remain suspended. Our COVID Response Team will continue to focus on supporting individuals who test positive within the campus community.
Staff work flexibility for the remainder of January
As we return to in-person classes and activities, we know that more faculty and staff will return to campus in support of a fully in-person operation. However, we also understand that given personal circumstances, flexibility is still necessary as we navigate the pandemic. As such, Northwestern will continue to offer managers the ability to provide additional flexibility for staff for remote work through the end of January in alignment with operational needs of each unit.
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.
As we continue to navigate our response to the pandemic, we will share any updates with you as they arise. You can always check our COVID-19 website for updated information.
We thank you for all you have done to help us stabilize our University so that in-person classes and activities can resume next week as planned. Your continued diligence will help us have the best chance to continue in-person activities and classes for the full Winter Quarter.
Vice President for Operations
Provost and Professor
Interim Vice President for Human Resources