A message from President Freeman re: Thanksgiving Travel and Testing
Nov. 5, 2020
This has been a challenging semester, and I know that you are all looking forward to getting a bit of a break at Thanksgiving and after finals next month. I’m writing today to update you on our plans for the coming weeks and to share new measures we’re offering to help protect our university community at this time.
Class Schedule and University Operations
We know that continuing services and access to university resources is important to student success in the final weeks of the semester. In-person, online classes and all university operations will proceed as scheduled through the end of the semester. Faculty and students should continue to stay in regular communication with one another should any scheduling adjustments be necessary.
Free COVID-19 Testing Available
Many of you, understandably, want to connect with family and friends for Thanksgiving. Please keep in mind that public health experts advise extreme caution in participating in these activities as even small gatherings present a risk for being exposed to the virus. If you are going to travel and/or be with others, please be responsible and continue to follow public health guidelines regarding wearing masks, washing hands, practicing physical distancing and using good judgment to stay healthy.
To help protect your home community as well as NIU’s, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the DeKalb County Health Department and NIU are partnering to offer free, drive-through COVID-19 testing from Monday, Nov. 16, through Wednesday, Nov. 18, for any student, faculty, staff member and DeKalb County resident who want to be tested prior to Thanksgiving.
Testing will be available each day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Anderson Hall parking lot. Results will be available in four to seven days. Again, there is no charge for this testing. More specific information about the testing will be sent in Monday’s announcements and made available on the university’s Protecting the Pack site.
COVID-19 cases are on the rise around Illinois, as well as across the nation, and travel to “hot spots” can increase the risk of exposure. As noted above, if you are going to travel and/or be with others, it is important to follow public health guidelines and use good judgment to keep yourself, those you care about and our community healthy. For the remainder of the semester, those who travel will be strongly encouraged, but not required, to self-quarantine or, at minimum, limit their contact with others for 14 days upon return from areas identified on the City of Chicago’s COVID-19 Emergency Travel Order site.
NIU’s surveillance testing program has been effective in helping us reduce the spread of COVID-19 by quickly identifying asymptomatic cases within our testing population. Surveillance testing will pause for the week of Nov. 23 and will resume for all required students, faculty and staff the week of Nov. 30 through Tuesday, Dec. 8. Testing will resume in January when students return to campus and classes resume. Information about plans for spring surveillance will be sent to relevant people in December.
Residence Hall Check-out and Gateway Testing
We know that some students living in the residence halls are not planning to return to campus for the final few weeks of the semester after Thanksgiving break. We certainly understand, and we will need these students to notify their community advisors and sign up for checkout times to return their keys to the front desk prior to leaving for Thanksgiving break.
When classes resume in January, we will again require gateway testing for residential students to be able to return to the residence halls. I’m pleased to share that we’ll be able to offer our residential students free, on-campus testing at that time. More details will be sent to students in December.
These next few weeks of challenging coursework, lingering uncertainties and longing for normalcy will be stressful for every Huskie. You’ve heard us say before that Huskies never quit, and that’s true – but it also means that Huskies shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. Recognizing that we’re having a tough time, and seeking resources or guidance, is at the core of being successful. For our students, the Center for Student Assistance and Counseling and Consultation Services want to help you identify and address your needs. For our employees, NIU’s Employee Assistance Program is at the ready to provide confidential assistance to employees and their families. You should never hesitate to reach out to let us know how we can support you.
Please continue to prioritize good health and well-being. I’m grateful for your cooperation and shared commitment to our entire community.
Lisa C. Freeman