Administrators talk “Wildcat Wellness,” COVID-19 testing plans in fourth discussion with NU community


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Searle Hall, the location of Northwestern University Health Service. According to a Wednesday email, NUHS will run COVID-19 testing in partnership with Northwestern Medicine.

Isabelle Sarraf, Copy Chief

Administrators provided more information on “Wildcat Wellness” as well as new COVID-19 testing protocols in a Tuesday webinar. The discussion was the fourth part of a series related to Northwestern’s plan to return to campus.

Last week, the University shared a new set of safety guidelines, including a two-week mandatory quarantine period upon students’ arrival to campus, which will last from Sept. 6 to Sept. 20. Carlos Gonzalez, executive director of Residential Services, said the University decided to implement the wellness period in order to start the quarter off by emphasizing “safety and efficiency.”

The “reimagined” Wildcat Welcome will include Zoom meetings from residential area leaders and faculty-in-residence on navigating campus, trivia games, yoga sessions, “wellness-focused” discussions and more, Gonzalez said. Dining will be scheduled for on-campus students and will be entirely to-go for those two weeks, he said.

On-campus students will be able to sign up for a 30-minute move-in time slot, which is intentionally a longer time frame than usual “to minimize unintended gatherings,” according to Gonzalez. Residential Services has also negotiated with a vendor to have all packages delivered straight to dorm rooms to streamline the amount of items students will bring themselves versus order online, he added.

“We’re encouraging students to pack light,” Gonzalez said. “I think we need to stay nimble and that will help the overall community.”

Ike Ogbo, director of Evanston’s Health and Human Services Department, joined the call to provide students and their families with more context on how the city is handling the pandemic. There have been 870 cases of COVID-19 in Evanston, of which 22 are active, he said. He added that the city is averaging less than 3 cases each day. These comments were made before five new cases were added.

“As it stands, Evanston is doing pretty okay compared to other municipalities,” Ogbo said. “Going down from the height of the pandemic when we had about 15 to 16 cases per day is certainly an improvement.”

Dr. Robert Palinkas, executive director of Northwestern University Health Service, said though there have been a number of positive COVID-19 cases on campus — 42 total as of Tuesday — no students have required hospitalization. Moving forward, he said there will be “regular testing in a very broad sense” in partnership with Northwestern Medicine, because NUHS lacks the necessary capacity.

During Fall Quarter, Palinkas said the University will have the capacity to administer 1,600 COVID-19 tests daily for individuals in the NU community. He said test administration will be a “largely targeted approach,” with a focus on move-in day for students in residence halls.

The turnaround for University-administered testing at the moment is about “a day or two.”

“We are very effective at maintaining and preserving the public health of the University by enforcing and supporting isolation,” Palinkas said. “We really want to preserve the safety of the high-density environment that residence halls could have.”

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