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Testing Protocols and FAQs

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Testing FAQs

Hundreds of people at the university have been working diligently and around the clock for the past several weeks to prepare our campuses for the safe return of students, faculty, and staff. As our community begins a phased return to the Boston campus, one of the integral components of ensuring the safety of everyone involved is testing for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The extensive COVID-19 viral testing and contact tracing program will continue through the 2020-2021 academic year. All students, faculty, and staff returning to the Boston campus will be required to undergo viral testing regularly. The test uses a frontal nasal swab, which involves minimal discomfort.

Daily Wellness Check

How will Northeastern faculty, staff, and students complete the required daily health assessment?

Each day, all Northeastern faculty, staff, and students are required to complete a Daily Wellness Check to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and close contact with others who have COVID-19. This includes faculty, staff, students across our global campuses, and students who live off campus

What if I have no symptoms of COVID-19 and have not been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Do I still have to use the Daily Wellness Check?

Yes, faculty, employees, and students are required to use the Daily Wellness Check. If they report no symptoms, the wellness check will indicate you are cleared to come to campus, participate in classes, and (if you are located in Boston) be tested at the Cabot Physical Education Center testing site on your assigned testing day.

What happens if I report COVID-19 symptoms when I complete my Daily Wellness Check?

Students

You will receive instructions at the end of the Daily Wellness Check not to come to campus until cleared by a medical professional to do so. You will be prompted to contact our COVID-19 telehealth provider, Tufts Medical Center, and a clinician will advise you on next steps. The phone line is available between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday; voicemails can be left at night and on weekends for clinician follow up.

Faculty/Staff

You will receive instructions at the end of your wellness check not to come to campus until cleared by a medical professional to do so. You will be directed to your primary care physician for care and next steps.

What happens if I indicate exposure to someone with COVID-19 when I complete my Daily Wellness Check?

Students
You will receive instructions at the end of the Daily Wellness Check not to come to campus until cleared by a medical professional to do so. You will be prompted to contact our COVID-19 contact tracing team, and a member of our team will advise you on next steps.

Faculty/Staff
You will receive instructions at the end of your wellness check not to come to campus until cleared by a medical professional to do so. You will be directed to your primary care physician for care and next steps.

Testing Requirements

Why is Northeastern requiring frequent testing for all students, faculty, and staff on the Boston campus?

The CDC promotes symptom screening, testing, and contact tracing as strategies that workplaces can use to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Northeastern is adopting all three strategies on its Boston campus to promote the safety of the campus community. Testing everyone on a regular cycle, whether they show symptoms of COVID-19 or not, will allow the university to swiftly offer help to anyone who is sick, isolate them while they may be contagious, identify their close contacts, and promote their full recovery.

Will students who live off campus be able to get testing at outside facilities rather than on campus?

With the exception of the faculty arrival test mentioned above, all testing required by Northeastern will need to be performed at the Northeastern testing center.

I am an international student. Should I get a COVID-19 test before arriving in Boston?

We recommend that all Northeastern students get a test for COVID-19 before they travel. There may be other requirements you need to follow for departure, both for entry into your transit points and for your point of entry into the United States. Northeastern’s Office of Global Services has prepared a guide for international students who are traveling to Northeastern from abroad, with detailed information for specific countries.

What happens if someone refuses to be tested?

Frequent testing of the entire on-campus community is essential to the health and wellbeing of all. Students who refuse to be tested will undergo a review with the Office of Student Affairs, staff will undergo a review with Human Resources Management, and faculty will undergo a review with the Office of the Provost. Members of the Northeastern community who prefer not to get tested will not be physically allowed on the Boston campus and will need to transition to a fully online learning or working experience.

Will I still need to be tested even if I have already had COVID-19 or if I’ve tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies?

If you have had COVID-19 confirmed by SARS-CoV-2 viral PCR test and recovered from it within the past three months, you can request medical clearance by University Health Counseling Services to come back to campus without being tested. You will need documentation from a medical clinician or your local public health authority that you have recovered from COVID-19 and are no longer contagious, along with your positive test result. If you do not have the document from a clinician, you may request the medical clearance by a clinician at UHCS. If it has been longer than three months since the date you had the positive viral test, you will need to be tested to come back to campus. Because the current data about the role of antibodies in COVID-19 is insufficient, we are not able to accept antibody testing results.

Scheduling a Test

How will Northeastern students, faculty, and staff schedule appointments to be tested?

Please visit the COVID-19 Test Scheduler to schedule your appointment. The testing center only takes scheduled appointments. No walk-ins are permitted. Students, faculty and staff in Boston will receive regular email notifications to remind you of when you need to schedule your next appointment.

What are the hours when testing will take place?

Sample collection will take place seven days a week in the Cabot Physical Education Center: on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 am to 4:00 p.m. Symptomatic testing will be available from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., seven days a week. For the first week of the testing launch, hours will vary. Please check the COVID-19 Test Scheduler for the open time slots.

Will I get a notification when it is time to schedule my next testing appointment?

Faculty, staff, and students who are required to be tested will receive regular email notifications about scheduling their next testing appointment.

Does the testing center take walk-in appointments?

No, the testing center does not take walk-in appointments. You will need to use the COVID-19 Test Scheduler to schedule an appointment.

Understanding the Testing Schedule

What are the testing requirements for faculty and staff to begin working on campus?

Staff should schedule a test for the day they return to campus. The test can take place at any time during their first day on campus. On that day they should adhere to all safety protocols such as completing the Daily Wellness Check, wearing a mask, practicing healthy distancing, and washing their hands frequently. Following their initial test, they will then be tested every four days. Faculty members will need to receive a negative test result in the seven-day period prior to their return to the classroom—a test they can obtain on the Boston campus or elsewhere.

What are the testing requirements for students arriving in Boston?

All Northeastern students—from exempt or non-exempt states, domestic or international—will be required to undergo a COVID-19 viral test at Northeastern’s on-campus testing center at Cabot Physical Education Center in Boston. Students living in university housing will be administered a COVID-19 viral test immediately upon arrival. This means students should go straight to the testing center and not to their assigned residence halls, when they arrive on campus. Students may go to their residence halls only after the testing has been completed. We realize that this may cause a slight inconvenience, and is a departure from the usual arrival process, but it is critical that the first test is completed before students occupy their assigned rooms

All off-campus students, from exempt or non-exempt states, domestic or international, should arrange to be tested at the Cabot testing center on the day of their arrival.

All students will need to be tested on day one (arrival), and on days three and five afterward. Please review the Travel FAQs for further details on student testing on arrival and the quarantine rules that students will need to follow until their first negative test result.

I am a faculty member or staff member who is primarily in-person on the Boston campus. How often will I need to be tested?

Faculty, staff, and contract workers who are primarily in-person on the Boston campus will be tested every four days. You should mark yourself as primarily in-person in the COVID-19 Test Scheduler and follow the testing requirements. The COVID-19 Test Scheduler provides some flexibility within this four-day testing schedule, allowing you to schedule a test two days earlier than your assigned test day or one day later. For instance, if you take a test on Wednesday, the COVID-19 Test Scheduler will send you a notification to schedule a test on Sunday. You may schedule your test two days before the assigned test day—on Friday—or a day after your assigned test day, on Monday.

I am a faculty member or staff member who does not come to campus. How often will I need to be tested?

Faculty and staff who do not come to the Boston campus are not required to undergo testing. You will need to mark yourself as primarily remote in the COVID-19 Test Scheduler. However, if you come for a one-time visit—such as to pick something up from an office—you would need to be tested any day you come to campus.

I am a faculty member or staff member who comes to campus occasionally—one day a week or less. How often will I need to be tested?

You should be tested any day you come to campus. You will need to mark yourself as primarily remote in the COVID-19 Test Scheduler and schedule a test any day you come to campus.

I am a faculty member or staff member who comes to campus regularly but on two consecutive days. Do I need to be tested both days?

It is not necessary to be tested on two consecutive days. You will mark yourself as primarily remote in the COVID-19 Test Scheduler and schedule a test on the earliest day you are on campus.

I am an active, full-time undergraduate student. How often will I need to be tested?

Active, full-time undergraduate students who fall into the following categories are required to get tested at the Cabot Testing Center every three days, regardless of how often they come to campus. This includes:

  • Undergraduate students living in university housing
  • Undergraduate students living in LightView
  • Undergraduate students, including those on co-op, living in off-campus residences in the neighborhoods surrounding the Boston campus. This includes students living in the zip codes of 02115, 02118, 02119, 02120, 02130, 02215, and 02121.

You should mark yourself as primarily in-person in the COVID-19 Test Scheduler and follow the testing reminders.

Why is Northeastern asking undergraduates to be tested even if they don’t come to campus?

This is a safety measure to protect your health and the health of the Northeastern community. Many undergraduates interact regularly with Northeastern community members—seeing friends or living with other Northeastern students—even if they don’t come to the Boston campus regularly. If a student on co-op lives with Northeastern students or sees them regularly and becomes ill, they risk spreading the illness to their friends, roommates, and the rest of the Northeastern community, even if they don’t come to campus.

I am an undergraduate student in the College of Professional Studies who lives off-campus and comes to campus occasionally. How often will I need to be tested?

Undergraduate College of Professional Studies students who live off-campus and come to campus occasionally should be tested as often as they come to campus.   

I am a graduate student who lives off-campus and comes to campus occasionally. How often will I need to be tested?

Graduate students who live off-campus and come to campus occasionally should be tested any day they are on campus. They should mark themselves as primarily remote in the COVID-19 Test Scheduler and schedule a test for any day they come to campus. Graduate students coming to the Boston campus regularly for classes should be tested every three days.

I am a graduate student traveling to the Boston campus once this semester for a one-day commitment. How should I be tested?

If you are traveling to the Boston campus from another state or country, we strongly encourage you to minimize contact with others before you travel and to have a COVID-19 test before you leave. If possible, please follow Massachusetts travel guidance and get a COVID-19 PCR test 72 hours or less before your arrival in Massachusetts. Please plan to arrive at least 36 hours before your event and schedule a test as soon as possible on arrival, so you can confirm a negative test before you fulfill your one-day commitment.

What if I go on vacation or travel away from Boston for the week?

If you are out of the office for a week or travel away from Boston, you will mark yourself as primarily remote in the COVID-19 Test Scheduler and will be exempt from testing for that week. You will need to be tested again on the first day of your return to campus, which will start another four-day testing cycle if you are an employee and a three-day testing cycle if you are a student.

If I am a student, can I schedule my test for another day besides my assigned test day?

Students are required to be tested every three days. You may schedule your test for one day earlier or one day later than your assigned test day. For example, if your assigned test day is on Wednesday, then you may schedule your test for Tuesday or Thursday. This will begin a new three-day testing cycle that starts on the day you have your test. You may schedule your next appointment on the day following your most recent test.

If I am a faculty or staff member, can I schedule my test for another day besides my assigned test day?

Faculty and staff who are primarily on campus are required to be tested every four days. The COVID-19 Test Scheduler allows the flexibility to schedule two days before or one day after their assigned test date. So if a faculty member receives a notification that they need to be tested on Sunday, they may schedule a test for Friday or for Monday. This will begin a new four-day testing cycle on the day you have your test. You may schedule your next appointment on the day following your most recent test.

I am a student who takes classes remotely from my home city. Will I need to be tested?

You are not required to participate in testing if you take classes entirely remotely from another state or country. You will mark yourself as primarily remote in the COVID-19 Test Scheduler.

Can students leave the state for a weekend or travel? Will they need to follow certain testing protocols if they visit home for a holiday?

If you travel, please make sure that you check the travel requirements where you are traveling. You may be required to have a negative COVID-19 test or quarantine to enter your destination state and to return to Massachusetts. If you will be gone for several days, make sure that you mark yourself as remote in the COVID-19 Test Scheduler for the period of time when you are away from campus. When you return, you will need to schedule a COVID-19 test at the Cabot Testing Center for the day of your arrival and quarantine until you receive a negative test result.

Can students who live nearby go home for a night or a weekend?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts doesn’t limit travel within the state or to nearby lower-risk states. Just make sure you keep up with your testing requirements and that you keep practicing healthy behaviors—wearing a mask, washing your hands, and practicing healthy distancing—wherever you go.

Testing Process

What type of test is it?

It is a diagnostic test that indicates whether you are currently infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The test is an anterior nasal swab, and Northeastern will use the gold standard of testing—polymerase chain reaction to test the genome of the virus. The test is not a serological test, meaning it will not detect the presence of antibodies for SARS-CoV-2

Is testing free?

Yes.

Where will COVID-19 testing take place on the Boston campus in the fall?

Cabot Physical Education Center, located at 400 Huntington Avenue, will be the main testing site on the Boston campus with a secondary site for symptomatic testing located in the Huntington Testing Center at 259-269 Huntington Avenue. The Cabot testing site will have sufficient capacity for Northeastern to collect up to 5,000 samples a day.

What do I need to do to prepare for my testing appointment?

  • Make sure you’ve completed the COVID-19 testing consent form.
  • Bring your mobile device to display your completed Daily Wellness Check from the day of your testing or print the page to show your results.
  • Remember your nine-digit Northeastern University ID number. This number is available on your northeastern.edu account or on your Daily Wellness Check result page.
  • As always, have your Husky Card visible on a lanyard, wear a face mask or face covering except for the brief moments during the swabbing, stay six feet away from others, and wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, before you arrive for your test and after you leave.

What will the process look like for testing Northeastern students, faculty, and staff?

You will arrive at the collection site, show confirmation of your appointment time, and show the results of your Daily Wellness Check. You will receive a temperature check, and then a staff member will scan the QR code on your Daily Wellness Check to assign you to a check-in line. Inside the building, you will confirm your identity and contact information and receive a personal barcoded label. Your identity and contact information may need to be manually entered if it is not already pre-loaded into the check-in system.

Then you will be ushered to a swabbing station where you will receive a testing kit with a swab and a sterile tube. The test is an anterior nasal swab—a less invasive and less uncomfortable but still highly reliable and accurate way of collecting samples. You will place your barcoded label on your tube and then be instructed to self-swab while under direct observation from a qualified health professional. You will insert the swab a half-inch inside the nostril and rotate the swab for approximately 10 seconds. After repeating the swab in both nostrils, you will seal the swab in your sterile tube, and follow the signage to exit. The test is quick, painless, and should take no more than ten minutes.

What will the process look like at the test center for people who are showing COVID-19 symptoms?

 

Steps Before Testing:

If a student completes their Daily Wellness Check and they have symptoms of COVID-19, they will be directed to call the Tufts Medical Center telehealth team for appropriate health support and triage from a clinician. The phone line is available between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday; voicemails can be left at night and on weekends for clinician follow up. If the telehealth team recommends a test, the person will be tested at the university’s testing site for symptomatic people, located in the Huntington Testing Center at 259-269 Huntington Avenue.

Testing Process:

The person will arrive at the symptomatic collection site, show confirmation of their appointment time, and show the results of their Daily Wellness Check. They will receive a temperature check. Once they confirm their identity and contact information, they will receive a label associated with their information and be ushered to a testing station. A qualified health professional, wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, will administer the swab test.

The test is an anterior nasal swab— less invasive and less uncomfortable but still reliable and accurate way of collecting samples. The medical assistant will insert the swab a half-inch inside the nostril and rotate the swab for approximately 15 seconds to collect the sample.

What are the safety precautions Northeastern is taking in its testing sites?

Signage and decals will show entrances and exits and will mark six-foot healthy distancing in the queues. Throughout the process, you will wear your own face mask or face covering except for the brief few minutes during your test. Six-foot healthy distancing will be maintained throughout the testing space. Northeastern will also install ultraviolet germicidal irradiation lighting (UVGI) with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration systems in the two areas on campus where COVID-19 testing will take place

What kind of demographic data will be collected and where will it go?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires COVID-19 testing labs to collect certain demographic data including gender, race, and ethnicity. Collecting this data helps public health officials understand COVID-19, its transmission, and how it may impact certain groups. The two labs analyzing Northeastern’s samples for COVID-19—the Broad Institute and the Life Sciences Testing Center—will collect this data on check-in and report it confidentially to state public health agencies. You may decline to answer demographic questions on gender, race, and ethnicity.

Test Results

Where will the samples be sent for analysis?

Some samples will undergo analysis by the Broad Institute and others will undergo analysis by the university’s newly-built Life Sciences Testing Center. The Life Sciences Testing Centerrecently secured state and federal certifications to process coronavirus samples using the gold standard for viral testing. In accordance with state law, all test results will be shared with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

How soon will I get my test results?

Test results will be available within 36 hours.

How will I create an account and be informed of my testing results?

Please watch for signage at the Cabot testing center when you are in the line for check-in. The signage will direct you to a QR code you can scan for information on how to access your test results portal and how to view your results. Test samples are currently being processed by Northeastern’s Life Sciences Testing Center (LSTC) in Burlington and by the Broad Institute. An email notification of your result will come from the laboratory that processed your sample and will direct you to the laboratory’s secure online portal. If your test was processed by Northeastern’s LSTC labs, your results will be available through Northeastern’s secure COVID-19 Test Results Portal. If your test was processed by the Broad Institute, your results will be available through the Broad’s CareEvolve secure portal.

Please check your junk or spam folder if you don’t receive your test results within 36 to 48 hours. If your test results are negative, you will receive an email notification letting you know that your test results are ready, and you will be able to access your results through a secure portal. If your test results are positive, you will first receive a personal phone call from a member of our team with further instructions. Then your results will be accessible through the portal.

What if my test was processed by Northeastern’s LSTC labs?

If your test was processed by Northeastern’s LSTC labs, your results will be available through Northeastern’s secure COVID-19 Test Results Portal.

  • At the time of your testing check-in at Cabot, you will receive an email from Northeastern COVID-19 Testing with login instructions attached in a PDF. Please look for this email and save it.
  • If your test result is negative, you will receive a second email within 36-48 hours after you test from Northeastern COVID-19 Testing letting you know that your test results are ready to view in the portal. Please use the login information from the previous email to access your results in the portal.
  • In a future release of the portal, you will be able to use your myNortheastern username and password to log in.
  • For help resetting your password and logging in to the results portal, the IT Service Desk is available to help, 24/7, all year long. Please call 617.373.HELP [4357] for support.

What if my test was processed by the Broad Institute?

If your test was processed by the Broad Institute, your results will be available through the Broad’s CareEvolve secure portal.

  • If your test result is negative, you will receive an email from CareEvolve@lknotification.com with subject line “Lab results available from your provider.” The first time you receive results from CareEvolve, this email will contain information about how to register an account and log in to view your results.
  • For any help resetting your password and logging in to the results portal, contact CareEvolve Support at crsp-careevolve@broadinstitute.org.

Will I receive test results for other illnesses besides COVID-19?

No, the samples will only be tested for COVID-19

What does it mean if I receive a notification that my results are inconclusive, partial, NA, or invalid?

There are some situations where you may have to repeat the test to receive a conclusive result. If your results are inconclusive, it means the lab cannot determine whether or not CoV-SARS-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is present in your sample. An inconclusive result does not mean you have COVID-19. If your results are partial, NA, or invalid, it is likely because the sample collected was insufficient to run the test. You may receive an NA or “test not processed” result due to errors such as inserting your swab upside down into the tube, your tube breaking during transport, or a barcode that could not be scanned.  If your result is inconclusive, partial, NA, or “test not processed,” you will be notified that you need to provide another swab specimen to repeat the test.

Other Testing Questions

Will testing be available to family members or outside community members?

No. Testing will be limited only to students, faculty, staff, and vendors who come to campus

Is the self-administered anterior nasal swab reliable?

A recent study by the Stanford University School of Medicine found that test samples collected by self-swabbing were as accurate as samples collected by health care workers. Having participants swab their own nostrils reduces the risk of infection for healthcare providers, who won’t be in close contact with the participants. And, since it is less complex, it will also result in faster sampling

If my testing question isn’t answered here, is there a contact number where I can ask further questions?

If you have other COVID-19 related questions, please email NUCovid19Qs@northeastern.edu or call 617.373.7333. This inbox and phone line are monitored from 8:30 a.m. ET to 4:30 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

Positive Tests and Contact Tracing

If I test positive for COVID-19, what happens with the information I share with contact tracers?

Northeastern requires our community members to fully cooperate with contact tracers from Northeastern, the city, and state to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Information you share with contact tracers will be kept confidential and only shared on a need-to-know basis with a limited number of Northeastern employees who are responsible for cleaning and coordinating support for community members sick with or exposed to COVID-19, and with local and state public health authorities, as required by law.

Contact tracers from Northeastern, local boards of health, or the state’s Contact Tracing Collaborative will call those identified as your close contacts during the infectious period when you could have spread COVID-19 to others. University contact tracers will only ask you about close contacts you’ve had on campus only. These contact tracers will keep your identity confidential and will only share date of exposure and instructions for quarantine, if necessary. Please remember that you help your close contacts and the Northeastern community by informing accurately about their exposure in a timely manner

What is the definition of a close contact?

You will be deemed a close contact if you’ve had this type of contact with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19:  

  • If you’ve been within six feet for longer than 15 minutes 
  • If you’ve had intimate physical contact such as kissing and hugging 
  • If you’ve been coughed or sneezed on 
  • If you’ve shared eating or drinking utensils such as dishes and cups 
  • If you’ve played a sport that can involve close contact with other players, such as basketball, football, volleyball, etc. 

If I tell contact tracers who I was around when I was infectious, will those people find out I have COVID-19?

If Northeastern’s contact tracing team identifies any close contacts after you receive a positive test result, the contact tracing team will follow up with close contacts to inform them that they were exposed and should begin to quarantine and monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19. Contact tracers will never share any identifying information about you with close contacts, including your name, relationship to the close contact, and place or exact time of exposure

Which close contacts will Northeastern call?

Northeastern’s contact tracing team will call close contacts within the Northeastern community (students, staff, and faculty). If you have close contacts who are not Northeastern students, staff, and faculty, contact tracers from the contact’s local board of health or the state’s Contact Tracing Collaborative will inform those contacts of their exposure and next steps for quarantine

Are roommates considered part of a ‘household’?

In off-campus housing, a ‘household’ would likely include other housemates living in the same house. In on-campus housing, a ‘household’ would likely include students who are living in the same suite and sharing a common area.

What happens if my roommate in university housing tests positive?

Any student who tests positive will receive a phone call from our COVID-19 telehealth provider, Tufts Medical Center, and a member of our Northeastern contact tracing team to share next steps and guide them in following the self-isolation protocol. Assuming the roommate meets the definition of a close contact, the roommate would be notified by our contact tracers and notified if they need to move into quarantine as well. Although your roommate might choose to share their diagnosis with you, the contact tracers would not share your roommate’s identity to follow privacy requirements and protect their private health information.

What happens if someone tests positive in my class?

When anyone in the Northeastern community tests positive, our contact tracing team will be working closely with local and state public health authorities to notify anyone who fits the definition of close contact about their exposure. Since Northeastern is reducing its classroom density to allow six-foot distancing, requiring masks, and improving its air ventilation, you and your classmates would most likely not fall under the CDC definition of close contact if someone in your class tests positive. If there were any exceptions and if trained contact tracers determined you were a close contact, then the contact tracing team would contact you and let you know your next steps. The person’s identity, schedule, and personal health information would not be shared with you.

Am I required to report if I know of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?

Northeastern medical providers and contact tracers keep all information confidential, as required by HIPAA and the Americans with Disabilities Act. To encourage cooperation with efforts to reduce COVID-19 and avoid retaliation and stigma, we ask that all community members who learn of a positive COVID-19 test do not disclose this information to others. The Northeastern testing center and all other COVID-19 testing labs automatically report positive results to the state’s Department of Public Health.

What happens if I am a student living in university housing, get a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, and have to move into self-isolation?

A clinician from the Tufts Medical Center telehealth team and a member of our contact tracing team will personally contact you to let you know what you need to do. If you live on the Boston campus, you’ll move into our COVID-19 Wellness Housing so you can have your own room and bathroom and recover away from others. You’ll get a wellness package with a thermometer, an oximeter to measure your oxygen, and over-the-counter medicine to help manage minor symptoms. Food will be delivered, and our telehealth provider will check in with you regularly to monitor your symptoms and advise you on medical care. Students may also call the telehealth team directly if their symptoms worsen.

What happens if I am a student living off campus and get a positive COVID-19 diagnosis?

A clinician from our Tufts Medical Center telehealth team and a member of our contact tracing team will personally contact you to let you know what you need to do. A clinician from our telehealth team will check in with you regularly to monitor your symptoms and advise you on medical care. Students may also call the telehealth team directly if their symptoms worsen. We will also connect you with We Care and Off Campus Housing and Support Services for additional support.

How am I released from isolation?

You will need to remain in isolation until your local public health authority (the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, your local board of health, or the Massachusetts Contact Tracing Collaborative on the Boston campus) clears you to leave. A public health authority will be in contact with you regularly and will conduct another assessment during your isolation period. They will confirm that you may leave your room once the risk of infecting others is determined to be low.

What if I am a close contact of someone who has a COVID-19 diagnosis and I need to quarantine in university housing?

Please remain in your residence and wait for a member of our contact tracing team to contact you to let you know what to do. If you are a close contact and live in university housing, you may be asked to quarantine in your own room if you live alone or in the COVID-19 Wellness Housing that Northeastern has set aside for isolation and quarantine. Our case managers will help you arrange what you need for quarantine, including food deliveries, medical care if needed, and further COVID-19 testing. If you do not live on-campus, you will need to quarantine at home, away from others as much as possible. Northeastern‘s contact tracing team will reach out to provide you further instructions and assistance for quarantining in place

If I am a student, can I go home if I test positive for COVID-19 instead of remaining on campus?

You will need to isolate immediately, so if your family members cannot immediately pick you up, you should move into isolation housing in university housing until you arrive. You will need to follow CDC guidance if you choose to isolate at home. If you’re not able to do so, the university strongly recommends that you remain in on-campus isolation housing rather than returning home and risking infecting your family members. Your parents and other household members will also need to quarantine at home and monitor their health, since living with someone confirmed to have COVID-19 will make them close contacts. If you do choose to go home, please let your case manager know and share your home address.

Are Tufts Medical Center telehealth services covered by a students’ private insurance or by Northeastern?

Tufts Medical Center will provide COVID-19 related telehealth services to our student community in Boston, including notifying students of a positive COVID-19 test, triaging students who report COVID-19 symptoms through the Daily Wellness Check, and checking in regularly with any student who tests positive for COVID-19. The cost of these telehealth services is covered by Northeastern at no charge to the student or to their insurance. If a student needs in-person care at a hospital or another health care provider, they would need to submit their insurance info to the health care provider for coverage. Students are welcome to get their in-person care at Tufts Medical Center but may choose to go elsewhere if another health care provider is in network.

What do Tufts Medical Center telehealth services cover?

Tufts Medical Center provides only COVID-19 related telehealth services, including notifying students of a positive COVID-19 test, triaging students who report COVID-19 symptoms through the Daily Wellness Check, and checking in regularly with any student who tests positive for COVID-19. Any questions related to other Northeastern health services should be directed to University Health Counseling Services. Questions about COVID-19 campus operations should be directed to NUCovid19Qs@northeastern.edu.

Move-in

Do I need to schedule my first test in the COVID-19 Test Scheduler during move-in, or is it automatically scheduled for me?

You will need to schedule all of your tests yourself, including your arrival test. Testing dates become available to schedule appointments seven days in advance in the COVID-19 Test Scheduler . For example, students who are moving in on Saturday, August 29 should access the scheduler on Saturday, August 22, and so on. If your move-in date is not yet available in the COVID-19 Test Scheduler, please visit the Scheduler seven days before your move-in date to schedule your test as soon as possible. After your initial test on arrival, the COVID-19 Test Scheduler will begin providing email notifications for when your next test should be. This will remind you to schedule them yourself and you can choose a time that works best for you.

When I’m scheduling my test, how much time should I allow for testing before my move-in time?

We recommend that you select a time that is no more than 30 minutes prior to your move-in time and no later than 15 minutes before the end of your move-in time. For example, if your move-in time is 3:30pm-4:30pm, you should sign up for a testing time of 3:00pm, 3:15pm, 3:30pm, 3:45pm, 4:00pm, or 4:15pm.

Am I able to schedule a test for the day before?

For students who already live close to our Boston campus—including students who are already living off-campus or living within commuting distance —we recommend that you begin your testing as early as possible. You may schedule your first test the week of August 24, followed by tests on days three and five after your initial test. For students who have plans to arrive prior to their move-in date, either on- or off-campus, you are similarly encouraged to start your testing cadence on your earliest arrival date in Boston. For example, if you are planning to stay overnight in a hotel prior to your move-in date, we strongly encourage you to use that time to get your initial test, to start the one-, three-, five-day testing protocol.

What do I need to do before I arrive for my test?

  1. Complete the Expectations for Return to Campus Attestation form.
  2. Complete the COVID-19 testing consent form.
  3. Complete your Daily Wellness Check before you leave for campus and bring a mobile device to show your results.
  4. Make sure you have your Husky Card. Those of you with a U.S. based-address will be receiving your Husky Card in the mail. If you don’t have your Husky Card in hand, you will need to go pick it up at Curry Student Center West Addition. (Follow the signs for directions!) Remember, you’ll need to wear your Husky Card visibly on a lanyard when you’re on campus. You can bring your own lanyard or pick one up outside of the Cabot Physical Education Center testing site.
  5. Make sure you have your nine-digit Northeastern University ID number. This is available on the Student Hub at me.northeastern.edu and also on your Daily Wellness Check results page.
  6. As always, stay safe! Wear a face mask or face covering, and stay six feet away from others.

What is the testing process on move-in day?

You will arrive at the collection site, show confirmation of your appointment time, and show the results of your Daily Wellness Check. You will receive a temperature check before going into the building. Inside the building, you will confirm your identity and contact information and receive a testing kit with a personal barcoded label, a swab, and a sterile tube. Your identity and contact information may need to be manually entered if it is not already pre-loaded into the check-in system.

Then you will be ushered to a swabbing station. The test is an anterior nasal swab—a less invasive and less uncomfortable but still highly reliable and accurate way of collecting samples. You will place your barcoded label on your tube and then be instructed to self-swab while under direct observation from a qualified health professional. You will insert the swab a half-inch inside the nostril and rotate the swab for approximately 15 seconds. After repeating the swab in both nostrils, you will seal the swab in your sterile tube, place it in a collection box and follow the signage to exit. The test is quick, painless, and should take no more than ten minutes.

You will tap your Husky Card on a card reader to the left of the exit doors. That will tell our Housing staff that you’ve finished your first test and you’re cleared to move into your residence hall. Don’t forget this step, especially if you get your test early!

Will parents be able to go with students to the testing site?

Students will need to go solo so we can keep the density low and keep lines moving fast. We recommend that parents park in Columbus Garage and wait for students to finish the test. Then students can return to the garage and drive to the designated unloading site.

If a student is traveling alone with suitcases and can’t leave their belongings in a parked car, what should they do?

You will receive emailed instructions, or you may look at your building-specific move in page on the Housing Fall Move-In Page. In some cases, you will need to take your things with you to the testing center—another reason we encourage packing light.

When can students expect to receive housing assignments and move-in dates and times?

Housing assignments and move-in dates and times were communicated by email during the week of August 3 to returning and traditional first-year students. N.U.in Boston students will receive the same information the week of August 10.

Can a student request to change their move-in date and time?

As you review your travel plans in the upcoming weeks, it is imperative that you arrive during your scheduled move-in date and time, as it will also correspond to your arrival COVID-19 testing appointment. If you cannot arrive during that date and time, you must select an alternate arrival date and time from a dynamic list of available time slots for your building. Arrival dates and times are limited per date, time, building, and unload location. Beginning on Friday, August 7, assigned students can access the Move-in Time Slot Change process in Housing Online. To access Housing Online, log onto your myNortheastern portal, then select Services & Links and click on Housing Online.

What if I am arriving outside of move-in and testing hours?

Students must arrive during the official move-in and testing hours in order to move into university housing. Students who arrive outside of these hours must secure their own accommodations until the next move-in day, and they should indicate this by selecting a move-in time for that following day through Housing Online.

When will students know move-in logistics—where to unload, where to report for check-in on arrival, and the testing logistics?

Students can expect to receive this information by email from the Housing team in mid-August.

How many personal belongings should students bring?

To make the move-in experience as smooth as possible for you and our entire community, we ask that you bring only your essentials and a few personal touches to campus. Your belongings should fit in one 4’x3’x3’ hamper or be able to be carried in one trip.

Can I ship items to pre-arrive?

Shipping items to pre-arrive to your room is available through a preferred vendor for returning and traditional first-year students, and the deadlines are in mid-August. Additional information about shipping items to campus mailrooms will be sent in mid-August; however, you should anticipate delays in processing and wait times for pick-up. Due to the university’s quarantine guidelines, you will not be permitted to pick up any packages from the mailroom until after you receive your first negative test result. The combination of processing delays and quarantine restrictions mean that you should not ship any essential items such as bedding, medicine, or toiletries that you will need during your first several days in housing.

What if a student living in university housing tests positive?

If a student living in university housing tests positive, they will be moved immediately into Northeastern’s designated wellness rooms for care. A Northeastern case manager will be in touch throughout the isolation period.

Will family members be able to help their students move into student housing?

As an added health and safety measure, only students will be allowed in the residence halls. For families traveling from both exempt and non-exempt states, family members will be asked to drop off their student at a designated unloading station and then depart. Our staff will help your student move into their residence hall and will be close at hand throughout the move-in process to help your student make a smooth transition to campus.

Will Northeastern provide move-in help, since parents and families will not be able to help students move in?

Staff will be stationed across campus to direct students where they need to go and answer questions. Northeastern also contracts with multiple vendors to assist with move-in. Depending on the residence you are moving into, vendors will help to empty your car, roll your hamper to your room, push your hamper up ramps, or bring your belongings into your room. You can expect to receive more information about the move-in help for your residence hall in mid-August.

What are the quarantine guidelines for students living in university housing?

After receiving their first test at Northeastern’s testing center, these students will move into university housing and go immediately into quarantine. They are permitted to leave to pick up grab-and-go meals from university dining, get testing or medical care, or use shared hall bathrooms or showers, but must otherwise stay in their room until they receive their first negative test result. Students who use a shared bathroom must limit time in these shared spaces to functional use only and wear a mask as appropriate. Once they receive their first negative test result, their quarantine is lifted. They can be out on campus with masks but are still restricted from fully resuming campus activities. Every student will be tested on days one (arrival), three, and five. Students will need to have three negative tests before attending class and fully resuming campus activities. Some students may have to begin their classes remotely.

When and where can students except to get more details on the move-in process?

The Housing team will share detailed information by email and on its Fall 2020 move-in page in the coming weeks. Please check your Husky email often for updates.

 

Testing for Faculty and Staff

As Northeastern moves ahead to reopen in the fall, testing faculty and staff who return to work will play an integral role in promoting the safety of the Boston campus and its surrounding communities.

The university will be requiring all people studying, living, and working on campus to be tested for the coronavirus. Faculty and staff will be tested twice every week, or whenever they are on campus if their visits are less frequent than one day a week. Students will be tested the day they arrive, then on day three, followed by day five—and will be able to attend classes in person after receiving negative results on all three tests.

“Northeastern has been looking to the fall semester from very early on, and we have done exhaustive analysis using all the resources that we have,” says David Luzzi, senior vice provost for research and head of the university’s testing operation. “We have put in place a multi-component strategy to keep the campus safe, and we strongly feel that we have the campus ready for a successful full semester.”

Before faculty members go back to teaching in person, they will need to receive a negative test result within a week of their return—a test they can obtain on the Boston campus or elsewhere. Staff members and employees will also need to be tested on campus the day of their return.

“It’s really important that everyone follows the rules, whether it’s wearing a mask or getting tested,” says Sehyo Yune, who directs the COVID-19 wellness team at Northeastern. “This is different from clinical medicine, because we are treating the entire community as our case, and we want to keep the entire community healthy.”

All members of the Northeastern community who do not show COVID-19 symptoms will be able to begin testing on Monday, Aug. 17 at the Cabot Physical Education Center on the Boston campus. People with symptoms of sickness will be tested at a different testing facility on campus.

Faculty, staff, and contract workers returning from a state with high risk of infection, as described by the Massachusetts travel regulations, will be allowed to get tested at Northeastern, but will need to stay home until they receive a negative result.

Students returning to the Boston campus will be required to go through three separate tests upon arrival, and then be tested regularly once every five days. Students who are already living on campus will also be able to schedule the first of their initial three tests for the week of Aug. 17.

All members of the Northeastern community will be able to schedule a test, even if they aren’t required to receive testing on a regular basis.

The COVID-19 testing center at Northeastern will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Additional testing will be conducted twice a week between 6 and 7 a.m. for anyone working night shifts, such as security personnel.

Everyone on the Boston campus will be required to use a web-based application to check their health before going on campus, as well as before getting a test. That Daily Wellness Check will prompt users to answer specific questions to help determine whether they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, or been in close contact with someone who has.

If, after using the wellness check, a member of the faculty, staff, or a contract worker receives a message indicating they might have one of the several symptoms of COVID-19, they will be directed to connect with their own healthcare provider. The wellness check will prompt students who experience symptoms to connect with a telehealth provider.

“If you have no COVID-19 symptoms, you get a green screen that welcomes you to the Boston campus,” says Madeleine Estabrook, senior vice chancellor of student affairs, who is leading the university’s extensive contact-tracing program.

 

Step 0: To receive a routine test, you will select a date and time through the COVID-19 Test Scheduler. You will then receive an alert to remind you of your selected date and time slot for testing at the Cabot Physical Education Center on the Boston campus.

Step 1

To receive a routine test, you will select a date and time through the COVID-19 Test Scheduler. Your selected date and time slot for testing at the Cabot Physical Education Center on the Boston campus will automatically be added to your Microsoft O365 calendar provided by the university.

Step 1: On the day of your test, you will need to show you completed your Daily Wellness Check in order to show you have no symptoms of COVID-19. You’ll also need to know your 9-digit NU ID number and have your Husky Card visible. Outside the testing center, a staff member will check your body temperature and make sure you are wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth.

Step 2

On the day of your test, you will need to show you completed your Daily Wellness Check in order to show you have no symptoms of COVID-19. You’ll also need to know your 9-digit NU ID number and have your Husky Card visible. Outside the testing center, a staff member will check your body temperature and make sure you are wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth.

Step 2: Once inside, you will queue for a check-in. Signs and visual aids will help you maintain a distance of six feet from other people.

Step 3

Once inside, you will queue for a check-in. Signs and visual aids will help you maintain a distance of six feet from other people.

Step 3: At check-in, you will confirm your identity and receive a testing kit with a barcoded label to identify your test. The kit will include a sterile tube and a swab. You will then be directed to a different area to perform the swabbing.

Step 4

At check-in, you will confirm your identity and receive a barcoded label to identify your test. You will then be directed to a different area to perform the swabbing. The label is applied and you are instructed and observed as you perform the test.

Step 4: A clinical administrator will instruct you on how to perform a self-administered test, which will consist of a method to insert a swab half an inch into both nostrils, a method that is less intrusive than other types of tests involving inserting elongated swabs to reach the back of your throat. Once you complete the swabbing, you will place the swab into the secured sterile tube with your information, and leave it inside a collection box.

Step 5

A clinical administrator will instruct you on how to perform a self-administered test, which will consist of a method to insert a swab half an inch into both nostrils, a method that is less intrusive than other types of tests involving inserting elongated swabs to reach the back of your throat. Once you complete the swabbing, you will place the swab into the secured sterile tube with your information, and leave it inside a collection box.

Step 5: You will be directed by a member of the center to exit the facility. The test is quick and painless, and the entire process will take you between five and 10 minutes to complete.

Step 6

You will be directed by a member of the center to exit the facility. The test is quick and painless, and the entire process will take you less than 10 minutes to complete.

Step 6: Within approximately 24 hours of your test, you will receive a notification with your results via email or phone. If you test positive, you will receive a phone call from a case manager with further instructions.

Step 7

Within approximately 36 hours of your test, you will receive a notification with your results via email or phone. If you test positive, you will receive a phone call from a case manager with further instructions.

Scheduling your test will be easy

The university has also created an online COVID-19 Test Scheduler to make it easy for everyone at Northeastern to schedule the specific date and time of their test in advance.

Beginning Saturday, Aug. 15, everyone will be able to use the scheduler when they need to take a test. As the university moves ahead with reopening at the end of August, everyone will receive regular email reminders to sign up for their required recurring tests. And everyone will have the ability to use the scheduler to indicate their presence on campus—whether they are on campus regularly or not.

Using that scheduler will be imperative, as the testing center will not be able to accept walk-ins without a scheduled appointment.

The scheduling system will become available on Saturday, Aug. 15, and details about how to access it will be sent directly to every member of the Northeastern community over that weekend. The scheduling system will also be accessible by way of links on several university websites, as well as the student hub.

What exactly you can expect at the Cabot testing center

First, you will need to confirm you are a member of the Northeastern community by using your Husky Card and your 9-digit NU ID, which you can access through the Daily Wellness Check. To enter the facility, you will also need to use that Checker to verify that you have completed the daily symptom check that same day.

“The Daily Wellness Check also has the ability to show you the date stamp of when you completed that symptom check,” Estabrook says. “So, if you are getting tested today, you can’t show yesterday’s symptom checker.”

Once inside Cabot, members of the center’s staff will help you proceed to a designated area where a clinical administrator will instruct and supervise groups of three people to swab their own nostril using the anterior nasal swab method. This way of collecting samples is less intrusive than the nasopharyngeal swab method, which involves inserting an elongated swab deep enough to reach the upper part of the throat.

Having clinical administrators instruct groups of three people at a time to swab their own nostrils reduces the risk of infection for healthcare providers, and will also result in faster sampling.

“Then there will be a staff member and three people standing in front, so that the staff member will be observing the three people doing the swabbing themselves,” Estabrook says.

Everyone in the center will be required to wear their masks, except during the self-administered swabbing. And everyone will need to follow markings to keep a distance of six feet from one another.

You can expect the entire process to take about less than 10 minutes. After that, you will receive your test results via email or a phone call within 36 hours.

Members of the Northeastern community who are symptomatic will need to connect with a healthcare professional before coming to campus. If they need to get tested, they will proceed to a different, smaller testing facility that is part of the Marino Recreation Center and which will serve as a contained space with four clinical administrators who will administer the tests.

All tests will undergo analysis at Northeastern’s Innovation Campus, where the university’s newly-built Life Sciences Testing Center recently secured state and federal certifications to process coronavirus samples using the gold standard for viral testing.

The entire testing operation, which is designed to collect and process up to 5,000 samples a day, will be up to full capacity when students start to move to campus on Aug. 29.

The university will ask anyone who tests positive to remain isolated for at least 10 days, according to the protocols of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Faculty, staff, and contract workers, as well as students living off campus, will need to isolate at home. Students living on campus will be isolated in special on-campus wellness housing.

For media inquiries, please contact media@northeastern.edu.

 

Testing For Students

As students, faculty, and staff  of Northeastern begin a phased return to the Boston campus, one of the integral components of ensuring the safety of everyone involved is testing for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. 

The university is providing free viral tests for students living on and off the Boston campus, as well as faculty, staff, and other employees, to determine if they are infected with the coronavirus, says David Luzzi, senior vice provost for research and vice president of Northeastern’s Innovation Campus.

“This testing is for everyone,” Luzzi says. “The goal here is to keep fully on top of what’s happening on campus.” 

In the fall, testing will take place at the Cabot Physical Education Center on the Boston campus.

Participants will swab their nostrils themselves, under the direction of a clinical administrator, using an anterior nasal swab method. That is different—and more comfortable—than the nasopharyngeal swab, which involves inserting an elongated swab deep into the nose to the upper part of the throat.

Having participants swab their own nostrils reduces the risk of infection for healthcare providers, who won’t be in close contact with the participants. And, since it is less complex, it will also result in faster sampling.

The samples will be sent to a third-party testing facility and to Northeastern’s Life Sciences Testing Center, which is expected to clear inspections for state and federal licensing and be fully operational to test thousands of viral samples in late July.

Students in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences, as well as students who started co-ops in July, returned to the Boston campus during the Summer II term. They are receiving free coronavirus tests at Northeastern’s University Health and Counseling Services. Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Both testing centers rely on what’s commonly called the gold standard for viral testing, Luzzi says, and will process the samples using a technique that relies on making millions of copies of the genetic material sampled within the swab to determine whether the coronavirus is present. 

“It’s the same state-of-the-art technology that was used to map the human genome,” Luzzi says. “The university has built a testing facility that is, in terms of standards and technology, the best currently available for COVID testing.”

Results will be generated within 36 hours.  

Members of the Northeastern community can expect for the self-administered swabbing to take about five minutes, Luzzi says.

Because one clinical administrator can help with up to three participants to conduct the swabbing, the process will enable large-scale testing on a daily basis, says Amaura Kemmerer, the associate dean for wellness and director of the Office of Prevention and Education.

“That kind of smart testing will be the same for students, faculty, and staff,” she says.

People who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 will be tested at a different facility. It’s a smaller site, with protections in place to conduct safe testing on symptomatic people, Kemmerer says. 

This facility will more closely resemble a clinical testing facility, with personnel wearing full personal protective equipment. Also, although that experience will also involve the anterior nasal swabbing method, it will be administered by a clinician.

In order to conduct as many tests as quickly as possible, university administrators are considering several alternatives, such as setting up mobile testing options for different locations and ensuring testing sites are open at times that accommodate students and employees who don’t have traditional working schedules, Kemmerer says. 

“We’re ramping up to be able to collect 5,000 samples a day, with the ability to go to higher numbers if needed.” Kemmerer says. “We’re looking at setting up a seven-day-a-week testing site with up to 10 hours of testing a day.”

All students, faculty, and staff who returned to campus in July are being tested between July 6 and July 20 in the Boston campus. In the fall, the tests will be self-administered, with clinical administrators helping up to three participants at a time to swab their own nostrils. Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

The free viral tests are required for everyone returning to the Boston campus. To get tested, students, faculty, and staff will need to sign up using an online form that will provide the necessary details and information for participants to get tested. 

The success of accurately monitoring  COVID-19 depends on testing the members of the Northeastern community regularly. A team of epidemiologists, data scientists, and university administrators have developed a model to assess how often people on the Boston campus will be required to get tested.

The number of days between each test will be informed by multiple variables, including the infection rates in Boston, as well as the average number of people a single person with a viral disease such as COVID-19 can infect. 

The first cohort of people returning to the university included graduate students in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences, who began classes in person on June 30, as part of the Summer II term, as well as other students who are starting co-ops in July and who are allowed to live on campus. 

Students currently residing on campus are living in single-occupancy units with private kitchens and bathrooms. Along with faculty and staff who have returned to campus, they are being tested during staggered dates between July 6 and July 20 at the facilities of Northeastern’s University Health and Counseling Services in Boston. 

If students test positive for COVID-19, they will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days in their single-occupancy personal residence on campus. University staff will help students receive food deliveries and facilitate care and other needs during the quarantine period, says Madeleine Estabrook, senior vice chancellor of student affairs. 

In the fall, students living on campus who test positive for COVID-19 will also be placed in single-occupancy isolation rooms on campus with a private bathroom, and food delivery assistance.

Students living on campus in the fall will be assigned housing arrangements that will have no more than two students per bedroom. Some, but not all, of those housing units will include private kitchens, and most will have shared bathrooms. 

Students who become ill should coordinate with their instructors directly about their classwork.

Test results will be available through an online and private portal. These results will also be available to internal university staff who have been trained on protocols specific to Northeastern to manage the cases of infected people and work with local public health authorities to coordinate contact tracing, a method that attempts to minimize the spread of a disease by identifying and monitoring the physical interactions of an infected person with other people.

In all cases, whether it is people living on campus or off campus, or people who don’t have immediate access to primary care, Northeastern will offer an exhaustive list of resources to get treatment for COVID-19, Kemmerer says.

“If it’s a positive test, they will be hearing from a member of the university’s contact tracing team,” Kemmerer says. “If it’s a student, there will be an offer made from a medical provider at University Health and Counseling Services. If it’s the faculty or staff, that person will be directed to follow up with their primary care or their general practitioner.” 

The plan, Kemmerer says, is to work with public health officials and that person who has tested positive to identify potentially affected areas on campus, such as classrooms or laboratories, where other people could have been exposed to the coronavirus.

“It sort of sets off this chain where, without compromising anybody’s personal health information, our staff will diligently follow up to make the appropriate alerts,” Kemmerer says.

The university’s contact tracing team also works closely with the commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Boston Public Health Commission, says Ken Henderson, chancellor and senior vice president of learning. When it comes to contact tracing, he says, everyone has a role to play.

“There’s a human element in this,” Henderson says. “It’s definitely relying on an individual being forthright, honest, and community-minded about ensuring that they share information about who they have close contact with—that’s of course in the interest of public health and the general interest of the community.”

Students who don’t test positive for COVID-19 are allowed to move freely around campus, but face masks must be worn at all times, including inside residence buildings. Students  may remove their face masks once they are inside their individual rooms. 

Everyone on campus will be required to get tested within the first couple of days after arriving on campus, including students living on and off campus, as well as faculty and staff members. Then, everyone will need to get tested again after a certain number of days.

If someone decides not to get tested, that person will need to transition to a fully online learning experience, says David Madigan, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. Members of the Northeastern community who prefer not to get tested will not be physically allowed on campus. 

“We would ask that person to participate remotely, and from the point of view of the learning experience, we’re ready to do that with Hybrid NUflex,” Madigan says, referring to Northeastern’s newly introduced platform to enable virtual learning and teaching.

Northeastern’s administrators also emphasize that they have been working tirelessly to prepare the campus for a safe return. 

“Our community’s health, safety and wellbeing are the highest priorities, and all planning has been with those priorities at the core,” Estabrook says. “This is thoughtful and thorough work to help make our campus safe.”

 

Testing for Symptomatic Students

In order to promote the safety of the Northeastern community while maintaining a comprehensive view of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the university has created a separate testing facility for students who exhibit symptoms of the illness.

The Huntington Testing Center, located at 369 Huntington Avenue, is outfitted to be the “gold standard” of indoor, symptomatic testing, says Amaura Kemmerer, associate dean for wellness at Northeastern.

Unlike its counterpart at Cabot, the testing facility on Huntington Avenue is strictly for students who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and students who have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease.

Students who endorse either criterium on their daily wellness check will be immediately connected with a telehealth medical clinician, Kemmerer says. If the healthcare professional determines that the student’s symptoms are indicative of the disease, or if their exposure is sufficient, the healthcare professional will order a test from the Huntington Testing Center. Only then can a student be tested at the facility.

“We have been very intentional about this process because of course, we don’t want students being unnecessarily exposed to a testing facility dedicated to symptomatic cases,” Kemmerer says.

The testing process at the Huntington Testing Center is similar to that at the Cabot Testing Center, with several key differences.

Students must be referred by a medical professional to get an appointment at the Huntington facility. They can neither schedule an appointment themselves, nor walk into the facility without an appointment.

Similarly to the process at Cabot, when students arrive at the Huntington facility, they’ll be asked to verify their identity and personal information, and be given a personal label with a barcode for their testing sample.

After that, each student will be directed to an individual room with an individual medical assistant, who will perform an anterior nasal swab of both nostrils. Though the sample collection method is the same, students will not take their own sample at the Huntington facility, the way they do at Cabot.

The medical professionals and all staff at the Huntington facility will be required to wear full personal protective equipment at all times inside the testing center. Students will be required to wear masks.

Four individual testing rooms have been built inside the Huntington Testing Center, and only two students can be tested at a time, to allow proper wash-downs and sanitation periods of each room after a test is complete. The center currently has a capacity to test 64 students per day, with room to double that figure if needed, Kemmerer says.

“The Cabot Testing Center is a cavernous space that was designed with the ventilation and sanitation precautions for a high volume of testing per day,” says David Luzzi, senior vice provost for research and head of the university’s testing operation. “The Huntington center was built around the assumption that someone who comes in is sick with COVID-19.”

The Huntington facility is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days per week, and available for all full-time students, including students on co-op. Faculty and staff who exhibit symptoms should be in touch with their medical providers and are advised not to come to campus.

Like those from Cabot, samples from the Huntington Testing Center will be sent to Northeastern’s Life Sciences Testing Center on the university’s Innovation Campus in Burlington, Massachusetts. Last month, the center received state and federal certifications to process coronavirus samples using the gold standard for viral testing. Some of Northeastern’s samples are tested by the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The university is working with the biomedical research center as part of its overall testing protocol.

The samples from the Huntington facility will be tested with the same rigor as every other sample, says Jared Auclair, associate teaching professor of biotechnology and lead of the Life Sciences Testing Center.

“From a scientific perspective, we treat every sample as if it’s positive,” he says. “That’s just best practices in the industry.”

Every student who lives on campus and tests positively for the disease, or has come into close contact with a person who has, will be placed in wellness housing for at least 14 days in order to isolate or quarantine, respectively, Kemmerer says. The special, individual housing has been incorporated into buildings throughout campus and is sanitized thoroughly.

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