Northeastern shortening isolation, requiring tests to return


Marta Hill

Northeastern announced update COVID-19 policies for the spring semester in an email to students Jan. 7. Changes include shortening isolation time to 5 days, the closing of wellness housing and updated testing requirements for returning to campus.

Kayla Shiao, news correspondent

In an email Friday, Chancellor and Senior Vice President for Learning Ken Henderson announced adjusted policies regarding health and safety protocols as students return from break. Among the policies announced were testing requirements for returning to campus, wellness housing closing and isolation protocol.

For students returning to any of Northeastern’s campuses, Henderson said they should plan for a safe and healthy arrival. 

“This [arrival plan] includes getting a COVID-19 test 72 hours or less prior to your arrival on campus,” Henderson wrote. “Do not travel to campus if you test positive, if you have had exposure to someone with COVID-19 or if you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19.” 

Students on Northeastern’s Boston campus are expected to test at the Cabot Testing Center the day they arrive for classes or move-in. Additionally, as announced Dec. 9, 2021, faculty, students and staff are required to receive booster shots by Jan. 18 or seven days after they are eligible. 

Off-campus positive COVID-19 tests, either antigen or PCR, should be reported in the Daily Wellness Check and the Wellness Portal, Henderson wrote. If students test positive with an at-home test kit and lack documentation of their result, it should be reported in the Daily Wellness Check, and the student should report their result to the Wellness team, even if the result was from more than 10 days prior. People with prior at-home positive test results will follow regular weekly testing and be exempt from isolation if they do not have symptoms. 

Instead of the wellness housing used in the past, students who test positive for COVID-19 in the spring will isolate in their dorms or off-campus housing.

“Part of managing [COVID-19] in its endemic stage includes moving beyond the approach of isolating students who test positive,” reads the spring 2022 FAQ page. “Our vaccination and booster requirements will allow students to isolate in their rooms. … The vaccines allow us to approach the upcoming surge like a cold or flu season.”

Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended isolation, which was shortened from 10 days to five days Dec. 27, 2021, students will remain isolated for five days after a positive test, then be required to wear a mask indoors and outdoors when around others for five days following. The email said grab-and-go meals will be available for isolating students to pick up on campus. 

If students test positive, they will be contacted by email, instead of phone as in the past. The university advises assembling essentials in anticipation of isolation.

“In order to best prepare for potential isolation, we ask students to pack and maintain a personal ‘isolation kit’ for your return to campus, containing personal essentials as well as medications, tissues, snacks and other items that could make a potential isolation period more comfortable,” Henderson wrote. 

With the infectiousness of the Omicron variant, Henderson reiterated the importance of wearing a mask that fits well. As of data published by Jan. 7, Northeastern’s seven-day positivity rate sits at 12.64%, with 292 people testing positive Jan. 4. 

“We appreciate your efforts to keep each other and our communities safe,” Henderson wrote. “We will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves and update the university’s guidance when necessary.”