The BinaxNow test kit in an image from Abbott's website.

Northwestern University is making free, at-home COVID-19 tests available to students, faculty and staff.

In a letter posted on the university’s website, Luke Figora, NU’s vice-president of operations, says, “while high vaccination rates are the most important tool to enable increased social activity” as the coronavirus pandemic diminishes, “we realize that not everyone can currently get vaccinated — notably children under the age of 12.”

Therefore, Figora says, Northwestern has acquired a large number of newly FDA-approved Abbot BinaxNow over-the-counter rapid tests, which are similar to what NU currently uses on campus.

These are authorized for at-home use without a prescription. The kit contains two tests, to be used twice within 3 days, with at least 36 hours between tests. Results are available in 15 minutes.

NU will not have access to the test results. Rather, anyone who tests positive should notify their personal physician.

Figora says these tests will not replace required on-campus tests at this time, unless students are informed otherwise by their academic program. The at-home tests, he says, “are meant to support you personally for the rest of the spring and into the summer.”

The tests are available immediately, at either the Jacobs Center in Evanston or 345 E. Superior St. in Chicago, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We hope,” Figora says, “that you will take advantage of this opportunity, and that it helps you and your family return to a more normal summer this year.”

Northwestern plans to primarily return to in-person classes in the fall, and will require all students to get COVID-19 vaccinations to register for courses.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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