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Monitoring the new COVID-19 variant and general COVID-19 reminders

Dear Northwestern community,

Over our Thanksgiving holiday break, the world learned about a new COVID-19 variant of concern called omicron. As we have with all significant pandemic developments, Northwestern is tracking this one closely. We are in regular contact with local health officials and our own medical experts, and we will update our safety protocols if such actions are necessary.

While we wait to learn more about the omicron variant and how it might affect our communities, we would like to share a few timely reminders.

Booster shots

Following updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the University strongly recommends that students, faculty and staff get a booster shot if they are eligible. The CDC recommends getting a booster if you completed your Moderna or Pfizer vaccination series at least six months ago, or if you had your Johnson & Johnson vaccination at least two months ago. If you have questions about boosters, please consult with your physician.

Students who receive care from NU Health Service (NUHS) may consult with an NUHS clinician regarding their COVID-19 booster options. 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. Please visit the CDC website for more information about COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 testing 

Northwestern strongly encourages anyone who traveled or gathered with friends and family over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to take advantage of our free testing centers in Evanston and Chicago. They are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Wednesday before returning to the regular hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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.

This testing helps Northwestern monitor and respond to minor spikes in positive cases, alerts people who test positive of the need to self-isolate and enables contact tracing for direct contacts. These efforts have helped keep Northwestern’s overall positivity rate very low.

Winter Recess and our return

We encourage everyone who plans to travel or gather with friends and family during Winter Recess to pick up an at-home test from one of our testing centers before leaving campus to use immediately before your return. 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. to 5 p.m. from Jan. 3 through Jan. 7 and from Jan. 10 through Jan. 14. Additionally, Northwestern has updated its guidance on international travel to urge caution due to potential health risks and the possibility of border closures, challenging testing requirements or mandatory quarantines.

Northwestern will send at least one more update to the University community before the Winter Recess that will go into more detail on planning for our return in January. As we approach the end of the year, we again thank you for your continued commitment to the health and safety of our community.

Luke Figora
Vice President for Operations