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For Students: Remaining Vigilant to Keep Northwestern Healthy

Dear students, 

Congratulations on making it to the middle of the Winter Quarter! We have all worked diligently to come together and create a safe place to live and learn this quarter. While we have had many successes, we also are experiencing some challenges that must address immediately.

We are beginning to see more concerning behaviors within our undergraduate community that are jeopardizing our efforts to keep our community safe. This behavior has led to an increase in the average number of daily new positive cases. While Northwestern’s overall positivity rate remains relatively low, we must remain vigilant as a community in our efforts to reduce the risk of spreading this disease and protect our campus. 

We recognize that it is extremely difficult not to engage with friends in traditional ways, go to social gatherings or participate in typical college experiences. However, we must remain focused on our end goal: Keeping our Northwestern community safe, healthy and well. In order to do that, we all have to do our part. We again ask you to familiarize yourself with the COVID-19 code of conduct and remain mindful of the following: 

  • Continue to wear a face covering in public or shared spaces and consider double-masking if you are in close proximity to others;
  • Practice social distancing of at least six feet;
  • Wash your hands frequently (or use hand sanitizer, which is available for all students to take home from the Jacobs Center);
  • Do not have outside guests inside your living environment; 
  • Comply with all city and state guidelines regarding gatherings, and do not host events with large crowds;
    • Note: Even in small groups, we must be vigilant with safety protocols, as the virus doesn't distinguish between large and small gatherings;
  •  Participate in our required, weekly testing; and 
  •  Notify University officials if you are ill or receive a positive result from an off-campus test.

Some of you have inquired about what or who specifically is driving the increase in positive cases. No one specific group is at fault, but most of the cases continue to be tracked back to small-to-medium-sized social gatherings and dinners. This virus does not need a large event (for instance, greater than 25 people) to spread. In fact, most of these recent, positive clusters result from gatherings of 7 to 10 students.

We know that a majority of our community is adhering to these guidelines and our COVID-19 expectations. However, some members are not. If you see someone not following our protocols, here are some tips on how to approach them:  

  • If someone is wearing a mask below their nose on campus, kindly remind them it should be pulled up or simply motion to their mask.   
  • If friends exhibit other concerning behavior, please address it directly with them. 
  • If you witness a large gathering, please report it through our reporting form. All reports are reviewed and, when coupled with specific information, action is taken.

We believe that by simply recommitting ourselves to these vigilant behaviors, we will keep our case numbers low. However, if we do not see these trends improve, additional restrictions will be established, including the possibility of a mid-term Wildcat Wellness period to stop any spread. We prefer to avoid that step but will make that decision quickly should we feel it is the only way to keep our community safe. 

Again, it takes all of us to keep our community healthy and well. Being attentive and practicing safety protocols will take effort, but it's worth it. As members of the Northwestern community, we know that we can do this together. We thank you for rising to the challenge and caring for our Wildcat family.  

With gratitude,


Julie Payne-Kirchmeier
Vice President for Student Affairs

Luke Figora
Senior Associate Vice President 
Chief Risk and Compliance Officer