While much remains to be learned about the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Northwestern University is telling students and staff that “as we have with all significant developments,” the university is “tracking this one closely.”

In a website message to the university community, NU Vice-President Luke Figora says Northwestern is in regular contact with local health officials and the school’s own medical experts, and will update safety protocols if need be.

While the new variant is being studied, Northwestern is recommending that all students, faculty, and staff get a booster shot if they are eligible.

The university also “strongly encourages” anyone who traveled or gathered with friends and family over the Thanksgiving holiday to take advantage of the university’s free COVID testing on the Evanston and Chicago campuses. Free at-home test kits are also available at those centers.

Anyone who travels over winter break is asked to pick up one of those at-home tests and use it immediately before returning to campus.

All students will also be required to take an in-person COVID test during the first week of classes in January.

Figora says Northwestern will send one more update before Winter Recess with additional details about the return to campus for the upcoming term.

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