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Spring update on COVID-19

Dear students, faculty and staff,

We write today to express our deep gratitude for the mutual care, respect and support the Northwestern community has demonstrated this year, and to provide an update. 

Our approach to COVID-19 remains largely unchanged. Masks are not required in classrooms, lab-based classes and other spaces where instruction takes place. Instructors and staff cannot require masking of others unless they are directed to do so as part of an approved disability accommodation through the Office of Equity or AccessibleNU. While masking is not required in most spaces, the University strongly recommends wearing a mask in areas where distancing is not possible. If someone asks you to wear a mask in class or an office, we encourage you to honor that request.

We have not observed any significant clusters of positive cases or transmission in classrooms. In April, we used targeted mitigation strategies to address small spikes in contained communities such as residence halls, and we will continue to enact these measures when necessary. Northwestern still publishes case numbers and positivity rates each Friday on its COVID-19 website. The numbers show our case levels have stabilized in recent weeks, even in the absence of general surveillance testing. The number of residential students in Quarantine and Isolation Housing also is far below capacity and the peak we experienced in January.

Even as we share these case numbers and positivity rates, public health officials have begun to view hospitalization and severe case data as stronger indicators of community health. Those indicators, too, continue to support our current approach. We are encouraged by how the term has unfolded so far while we continue to monitor our community’s health daily. Absent any major changes to the impact of the pandemic on our community, we will maintain our current approach through the end of the academic year. We will assess our needs over the summer in consultation with public health officials and our own medical experts.

We all look forward to big, end-of-year celebratory events, like Dillo Day and graduation ceremonies, and we ask you to remain aware of the conditions around you as you attend. Let’s finish the academic year strong and healthy. 

Here are some basic reminders:

  • Monitor your symptoms. If you feel sick, don’t go to work, class or events.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19 somewhere other than one of our on-campus testing sites, submit your test result by clicking on “Report COVID-19 Test Results” through the link provided and following the prompts, and return to campus only after you have cleared your self-isolation period.
  • Wear a mask if you are in a crowd and can’t properly distance yourself.

Free surgical masks remain available in the entryways of most campus buildings and free KN95 masks, designed to further reduce individual risk of contracting COVID-19 and other communicable diseases, remain available at the front desk of the Norris University Center and in the lobby of the Chicago testing site at 345 E. Superior St.

We continue to offer free in-person COVID-19 testing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday in Evanston and Chicago. Free at-home tests also are available through the federal government and most health insurance plans.

Thank you for your efforts to ensure a fun and celebratory end to this academic year. 


Luke Figora
Vice President for Operations

Lorraine Goffe
Vice President for Human Resources and Chief Human Resources Officer

Kathleen Hagerty
Provost and Professor

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier
Vice President for Student Affairs