Northeastern’s new testing and quarantine guidelines promote the safety of the Boston campus and its surrounding communities. Here’s how.

picture of northeastern graduate student
Graduate student Mark Diaz works outside the Curry Student Center. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

To promote the health and safety of the Northeastern community and its surrounding neighborhoods, and prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, the university will require all students to be tested immediately upon arrival at the Boston campus and then immediately enter quarantine. Students will also be required to be tested two more times, on the third and fifth day after the initial test.

Students whose first test comes back negative will be allowed to discontinue their quarantine immediately. After the third test comes back negative, students will be able to fully engage in campus activities, such as attending classes in person. 

Northeastern’s measures will apply to all students for the start of the fall semester, whether they live on or off campus.

“Even before students move into their dorm, their first stop is going to be the testing center,” said David Luzzi, senior vice provost for research and head of the university’s testing operation. “We are doing that because we want to get them their results as soon as possible.”

Testing will take place at the Cabot Physical Education Center on the Boston campus, and will be processed at the Life Sciences Testing Center at Northeastern’s Innovation Campus in Burlington, Massachusetts.

Northeastern’s new COVID-19 requirements build upon, and exceed, a Massachusetts executive order issued last week by Governor Charlie Baker. 

Baker’s executive order exempts travelers who can provide proof of a negative coronavirus test based on samples taken no more than 72 hours prior to their arrival in the commonwealth, as well as travelers from states with low infection rates. 

But to further promote the safety of the entire community in and around the Boston campus, Northeastern’s requirements for students arriving for the fall semester will be more comprehensive. 

The university will require testing and quarantine for every student arriving on campus from all states, even those exempted from the new Massachusetts travel order, as well as students who arrive in the United States from abroad. Every student will be tested three times.

“We are taking the Massachusetts rules and guidelines as a baseline,” Luzzi said. “And beyond that, we’re building a robust, multi-tiered system in place at the university to foster a successful fall semester.”

In accordance with the new Massachusetts rules, and with some exceptions, anyone who arrives in the commonwealth will also need to fill out an online form with details about their travel. This includes parents, relatives, or anybody else helping students during their move back to school for the fall semester. 

After their arrival, during the five days in which they will have their three coronavirus tests, students who live on campus will be able to go outside their rooms—while wearing a mask—for tasks such as picking up food, attending medical appointments, or sharing hall bathrooms and showers. 

“When you get the results of your first test, and they’re obviously negative, you’re allowed to go around campus, be out of your dorm, or be out of your apartment,” Luzzi said. “Now you’re in compliance with the state, but you’re not yet approved to participate in all campus activities. That happens when you have three negative tests, on day one, day three, and day five.”

The period during which students will receive the three tests is a different kind of quarantine to ensure the wellness of everyone at Northeastern—not the same type of isolation students will need to enter if they test positive for the coronavirus, said Madeleine Estabrook, senior vice chancellor of student affairs.

“This truly is required to comply with the rules and take actions that protect our community and our residential population,” she said. “This is not because you have been determined to be exposed [to the coronavirus].” 

Students living on campus who test positive for the coronavirus will be isolated and moved into special on-campus housing units with private bathrooms, Estabrook said. Food will be delivered to them, and they will have case managers and clinical support on a daily basis.

Students who arrive on campus within five days before the start of the semester will have to take their first classes remotely through Hybrid NUflex, Northeastern’s newly introduced platform to integrate virtual and in-person learning and teaching.

“You’re going to have all of those [three] tests negative before you’re able to go into certain buildings, into classrooms,” Estabrook said. “For students who arrive right before classes start, that means you’re going to be doing your classes remotely through NUFlex until such time as you have a third negative test.”

Family members and other people traveling from outside Massachusetts to help students move back into their dormitories and other residences on the Boston campus—and who do not stay in the commonwealth overnight—are also excluded from the Massachusetts travel order. 

However, as an added health and safety measure, only students will be allowed to enter residence halls. 

Anyone else helping them move in will need to stay within the area where they unload their vehicles. At that point, university employees will help the students move into their rooms.

“In a way, it’s like taking someone to the airport, where you can’t get through that gate, but there’s a time and a space where you hug and say your goodbyes,” Estabrook said. “This is an unexpected change, but it’s truly required to comply with the rules and take actions that protect our community and our residential population.” 

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