NU religious organizations make alterations to combat omicron variant


Daily file photo by Joanne Haner

The omicron variant has presented a challenge for NU religious organizations, forcing these groups to adjust their policies in order to ensure the safety of their members.

Pavan Acharya, Reporter

With the rise of the omicron variant, some Northwestern religious organizations have implemented policies to reduce the spread and ensure safety of its members.

OM at NU, a Hindu-centered religious group, was forced to move its “Hindu Classical Arts Showcase” from January to Feb. 26 due to omicron, according to co-president and Weinberg freshman Kushal Mungee. Mungee said OM will take new precautions to ensure the event’s safety.

“In terms of COVID-19 issues, we’re requiring proof of vaccination at the door,” Mungee said. “Plus spacing out the seating and taking all other precautions we can to make sure everyone stays safe.”

Mungee said proof of vaccination would have still been required if the show had taken place last quarter, but this requirement is especially important now with the contagiousness of omicron.

During the Wildcat Wellness period, OM at Northwestern held weekly Shravan Sessions virtually and hosted discussions based on Hindu texts like the Vedanta. 

Other organizations enforced less stringent COVID-19 protection guidelines following the omicron outbreak. 

The Sheil Catholic Center held in-person Sunday services during Wildcat Wellness as part of its “allowed activities.”  These in-person services have continued with precautions including mandatory masking for all individuals regardless of vaccination status.

Weinberg freshman Barb Burns attends services at the Sheil Catholic Center a few times a week. She said the center sets aside a space during mass where individuals can choose to social distance from one another. Burns also said that COVID-19 protocols have not changed much this quarter.

“It’s pretty impressive, the commitment that the staff shows to COVID-19 protocols,” Burns said. “They’re not messing around. They really just have everybody’s best interests at heart.” 

Incoming Northwestern Hillel Co-President and Medill junior Annie Epstein said the organization has also been prioritizing COVID-19 policies while continuing to put on in-person events, including their weekly Shabbat dinners.

Epstein said Hillel has been able to host Shabbat dinners every Friday, providing upstairs seating and a to-go option for individuals not comfortable eating in person. She said increased seating space allowed for more social distancing in the Fiedler Hillel Center as well as more room for attendees.

Northwestern Hillel has also adapted their COVID-19 policies regarding masking.

“Yesterday, I walked in just wearing one surgical mask, and they gave me (a KN-95 mask) instead,” Epstein said. “Everyone in the building is either double masked or wearing a KN-95 equivalent.”

Despite slight alterations, Epstein said Hillel’s recent events have not been impacted by the omicron variant. 

The group hosted its first Super Bowl Party on Feb. 13. Epstein said this was possible due to recent renovations to the Fiedler Hillel Center.

“We’re trying to take precautions, but also understand that Hillel is a place that a lot of students go to actually see other people in-person,” Epstein said. “We want to make sure people have the option to do whatever makes them feel most comfortable.”

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Twitter: @PavanAcharya02

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