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COVID-19 health guidelines through Thanksgiving and Winter Recess

Dear students, faculty and staff,

As we approach the final weeks of another unprecedented year, we are proud to affirm that Northwestern has maintained a consistently healthy community since our return to campus.

More than 98% of us are fully vaccinated, and our current COVID-19 positivity rate is 0.6%. These reassuring numbers are not an accident—they are due to your diligence and care as we have relied on a combination of vaccinations, testing, masking and symptom tracking to protect our students, faculty, staff and visitors.

When we have experienced minor spikes in positive cases, we have strategically employed additional testing to guard against spread in and beyond the affected communities. We will continue to monitor Northwestern’s health landscape closely through the winter and, if necessary, adjust our approach in consultation with local health officials and our own experts.

We write today to share our plan through the rest of this year and into 2022. 

Thanksgiving Break

Northwestern strongly encourages anyone who plans to travel or gather with friends and family over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to test before and after the break. Our testing centers in Evanston and Chicago will offer the following extended hours to accommodate the anticipated increase in visitors before and after the break:

  • Monday, Nov. 22 through Wednesday, Nov. 24: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Thursday, Nov. 25 through Sunday, Nov. 28: Closed
  • Monday, Nov. 29 through Wednesday, Dec. 1: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

When you visit a testing center, we encourage you to pick up a free at-home test as an additional resource for monitoring your health.

If you experience any symptoms of COVID-19, please do not come to campus. Northwestern outlines the processes for symptomatic testing for students and faculty and staff.

Return from Thanksgiving Break and Fall Term exams

Northwestern will resume in-person classes on campus after Thanksgiving Break, and the final exam period falls shortly after our return for most students. Faculty generally will continue with the final assessment plans and timeline laid out in their syllabi.  While some may allow students to take a final exam remotely, faculty are not required to do so and students should plan to return to campus after break and stay for the exam period.

Return from Winter Recess

After Winter Recess, the Winter Quarter will begin on Monday, Jan. 3, and the Spring Semester on Monday, Jan. 10. Again, we encourage everyone who plans to travel or gather with friends and family to pick up an at-home test from one of our testing centers before leaving campus this fall to use immediately before your return. Additionally, all students will be required to take an in-person COVID-19 test during the first week of classes. Our testing centers in Evanston and Chicago will offer extended hours from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. from Jan. 3 through Jan. 7 and from Jan. 10 through Jan. 14.

Booster shots

At this time, Northwestern does not plan to host large-scale vaccine or booster clinics in the coming months, given the individualized nature of booster decisions and the widespread availability of vaccines in the community. Students who receive care from NU Health Service may consult a physician regarding their COVID-19 booster options. The University recommends that faculty and staff consult with their primary care physician to discuss if and when a COVID-19 booster vaccination is appropriate. Additionally, you can fill out the City of Evanston’s Vaccine Booster Survey to be notified of upcoming vaccination events. Most local pharmacies also have booster appointments available.

In the coming weeks, the University will update the vaccine disclosure form to allow individuals to report when they received boosters, and for faculty and staff to provide copies of their vaccine records in accordance with State of Illinois requirements. 

Return to Campus review

We are assessing our return to campus operations to learn more about the experience across schools and units. While this work takes place, we encourage continued work flexibility consistent with the Alternative Work Strategies Policy that was approved over the summer. Schools and units should plan to continue their current strategies into calendar year 2022 as long as they continue to support academic, research and administrative needs. If you have questions, please contact Human Resources.

Thank you for your commitment to the health and safety of your fellow students and colleagues. If you have not already, we encourage you to get your seasonal flu shot. We wish you a safe, healthy and happy holiday season with your loved ones.


Luke Figora
Vice President for Operations

Priya Harjani
Interim Vice President for Human Resources