With COVID-19 continuing to spread, Northwestern University is adding new guidelines and regulations in an effort to contain the virus.

In a website message to the NU community, University Vice-President Luke Figora and two other administrators say NU’s Covid Dashboard “reflects a significant number of new cases.”

Because of that, the university is recommending “wearing a high-quality mask – at a minimum a surgical mask – in shared campus environments.”

Such masks, Figora says, “are proven to be better than cloth masks,” and are available in the entryways of most campus buildings.

Northwestern is currently on remote learning for the first two weeks of classes this quarter, returning to in-person instruction on Jan. 18.

Once in-person classes do resume, the university says, “students will be required to wear a surgical or higher quality mask with two or more layers while in class.”

Additionally, NU states that instructors are “strongly encouraged to wear masks while lecturing,” and should only remove those masks “with extreme social distancing,” such as when teaching at the front of a large lecture hall.

On Monday, the City of Evanston’s new regulations for proof-of-vaccination for indoor dining will take effect. Those rules also cover indoor events where food or beverages are served, such as athletic arenas. Gyms and recreation centers are also covered.

Northwestern says a vaccinated student’s or staff member’s status is included in their Symptom Trackers, so showing a green badge from that tracker is sufficient proof of vaccination.

Unvaccinated individuals, NU says, “should prepare for an increase in on-site testing in order to continue to be able to continue accessing campus.” More specifics will be announced soon.

Northwestern says more than 1,200 positive cases were identified, mostly self-reported, by students and staff who were off campus during winter break.

Currently, NU is in a two-week “Wildcat Wellness” period, where students are required to take a COVID test each week.

So far, the university says about 300 positives have resulted from nearly 11,000 asymptomatic tests. About 45% of those positives were undergraduate students, 35% were graduate students, and the rest were faculty and staff.

“We expected to see an increase in cases,” Figora says, “due to the current Omicron surge.” However, he adds, most of those who show symptoms recover quickly.

Northwestern will also have a webinar on Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. to go over the variety of COVID-related issues and regulations.

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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