Campus workers report lack of communication from Northwestern about COVID-19


Daily file photo by Ava Mandoli

Outside the COVID-19 testing location at the Jacobs Center. Northwestern has reported increased COVID-19 cases this month but has not sent any campuswide communication about the spread.

Davis Giangiulio, Reporter

As Northwestern experiences an elevated number of COVID-19 cases on campus this month, some workers say the University’s communication about the status of the pandemic has been nonexistent. 

Earlier this month, NU reported its second-highest COVID-19 positivity rate of the pandemic. While the University notified students about increased case counts in their residence halls, it has not sent any messages to the larger NU community since the beginning of Spring Quarter. 

Valentina Espinosa, a housekeeper at the James Allen Center, said speaking with The Daily was the first she heard of the increase in cases.

“If I had known, I would change a lot of what I’ve been doing,” Espinosa said through a translator. 

Espinosa said that would mean constantly washing her hands and wearing a mask on the job. As a housekeeper, she said wearing a mask is difficult with the work, but she would have worn one to feel safer if she knew about the rising cases. 

A custodian working in Allison Hall, who asked to remain anonymous for privacy concerns, said she also had no knowledge of the rise in cases. She said she finds this concerning, because she believes she is consistently exposed to COVID-19 at work.

“I was just thinking about that today,” she said. “I have been disinfecting quite a bit of rooms.”

Last spring, workers at the Norris University Center reported a lack of contact tracing measures from the University and Compass Group, along with limited access to testing for campus workers.

University spokesperson Jon Yates said in an email to The Daily that NU follows local and Northwestern Medicine health guidance to combat COVID-19 on campus. 

“Our Case Management team works closely with University departments, including residential services, to investigate each reported case and communicate with close contacts as needed,” Yates said in the email. 

However, one year after concerns were first raised about the lack of contact tracing and communication with campus workers about cases, Yates did not clarify if contact tracing exists for workers. Earlier this month, Yates also said in an email to The Daily that the University has no plans to implement mitigation measures to combat the rise in cases.

Espinosa said NU has not communicated with her at all about the status of the pandemic on campus. Instead, the University reminded her and colleagues about the standard COVID-19 guidelines they need to follow.

The anonymous worker said she couldn’t recall any information about cases throughout the two years of the pandemic, and that she relied on outside sources for information about COVID-19 cases. She said she was already voluntarily masking before hearing of the increased positivity rate, but now plans to take further mitigation measures, including increasing hei testing frequency.

The worker added she wishes the University was more active about informing workers about the status of the pandemic.

“I feel like it would help people,” she said. “(To) be more aware, alert, and be more cautious of their environment.”

Espinosa said she is worried about getting the virus so will start taking steps to be more cautious and inform others about the case rise.She said she wishes the University would reinstate the mask mandate to combat the rise.

“I’m also going to talk to my coworkers,” she said. “This does put all of them at risk again.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @GiangiulioDavis

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