Students make plans for holidays amid campus COVID-19 case spikes


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

With spiking COVID-19 cases in Evanston and the rest of the state, Northwestern students have a difficult winter ahead of them.

Joshua Perry, Reporter

As Fall Quarter comes to a close, Northwestern students will enjoy Thanksgiving Break before finishing up finals, as usual. But the worsening pandemic has made the logistics of traveling and celebrating during this time complicated.

Last week, the University recorded 63 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — the highest ever weekly case count — and a positivity rate just over 1 percent.

The Illinois Department of Public Health issued a stay-at-home recommendation on Nov. 11 asking residents to stay at home “as much as possible” leading up to Thanksgiving weekend. But in an email to the NU community, Provost Kathleen Hagerty said plans to bring students back Winter Quarter remain unchanged. The University will continue to monitor the trajectory of the pandemic, she said, as well as public health guidance.

Medill sophomore Sara Kadoura said she and her friends are planning on gathering — if they all receive negative COVID-19 test results — over Thanksgiving weekend for a homemade dinner in one of their off-campus apartments. She said she’s looking forward to the celebration, the only break NU students get from their studies in the fall.

“We’re going to cook more than we’ve ever cooked in this apartment,” Kadoura said. “And we’re really excited about it.”

Kadoura and those in her social circle have taken precautions throughout the quarter, and they only go into town when necessary, she said. As far as COVID-19 risks are concerned, she said she isn’t particularly worried.

Weinberg sophomore Liliana Sydorenko, a resident assistant living on campus, said her plans are to fly home for Thanksgiving Break and not return until the start of Winter Quarter.

“I miss my family,” Sydorenko said. “Being on campus is fun, but there’s something about the comfort of your own home for the holiday season. I’d rather be there.”

For international students, however, travel is a little more complicated. When Weinberg sophomore Lucas Bezerra came from Brazil to Evanston this fall, he had to stop in Mexico to quarantine for 14 days. He said that kind of hassle puts visiting family out of the picture for the holidays.

Instead, Bezerra, who lives in an off-campus apartment, said he is staying in town to ride out Winter Break until classes start in January, which is hopefully on a more open campus, he said.

In an Oct. 28 email, University President Morton Schapiro announced all underclassmen would be allowed on campus in January, a stark difference from the fall. However, he did stipulate that any change in circumstances leading up to the start of the quarter could shift those plans.

It’s unclear how things will play out over the coming weeks, but Bezerra said he has very little faith that Schapiro’s reopening plan will play out, especially after how decisions were flipped just over a week before the planned return this fall.

“It’s going to be a very complicated situation if he does cancel it again, but I feel like it’s bound to happen,” Bezerra said.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @joshdperry

Related Stories:
Northwestern international students struggle with return-to-campus travel plans
Amid COVID-19 surges, Chicago to implement travel restrictions
Northwestern’s campus activity level is “Yellow” according to COVID-19 dashboard