COVID-19 Plan – Medill DC

Medill Washington Program
In Person Instruction and Reopening Plans for Fall 2020
Prepared for the District of Columbia Higher Education Licensure Commission
September 1, 2020 (Revision 1)


Northwestern University’s Medill D.C. program intends to resume a hybrid of in-person and remote accessed education in mid-September 2020, with a maximum of 15 candidates for the Master of Science in Journalism (MSJ) degree. For the fall 2020 term, no undergraduates will be enrolled. The highest priority of the reopening plans is to ensure the health and safety of students, faculty and staff.

Medill Washington will fully comply with all guidelines issued by the D.C. government, the DC HELC and the CDC, following and coordinating with additional health and safety guidance of University leaders on our home campus.

Northwestern University has extensive online resources for students, faculty, and staff outlining a phased return to campus and adaptations to academic programs. These resources are being frequently updated based on the most up-to-date public health guidance. In addition, students receive weekly emailed updates with reminders to closely examine the latest guidance for return to school.

The University’s updated and current COVID-19 guidance is available at:

Medill’s updated and current COVID-19 guidance is available at:

However, the guidelines posted on Northwestern and Medill’s website are largely specific to the main campus in Evanston, Illinois, whereas our program in Washington is a satellite campus. Any information in this document supersedes the referenced policy for the purposes of operations and reopening in the District.

A. Important Contacts & Timeframes

Program address:       Northwestern University / Medill School
One Franklin Square
1301 K Street, NW, Suite 200W
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 661-0100

Local coordinator:      Ivan Meyers
Lecturer and Washington Bureau Multimedia and Operations Lead
(202) 661-0150

Ivan is the contact for engaging DC Health and HELC.

Home campus coordinator:    Sara Nelson
Associate Dean of Administration, Medill School
(847) 467-0657

Timeline for reopening:

  • June through August 2020: Develop plan for return in coordination with appropriate oversight agencies and within Northwestern University; order necessary supplies
  • Early September: Reconfigure physical space for social distancing, install signage and sanitizing stations, disable access to kitchen appliances, printers, and some seating
  • Week of September 14, 2020:
    • Students arrive for orientation and credentialing but will not be on campus; orientation will be conducted online
    • Thorough space cleaning, shampoo carpet, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting
  • Monday, September 21, 2020: Students return to campus for first day of class
  • Tuesday, November 24, 2020: Last day of in-person class on site

Students who move to DC are responsible for their own housing. Northwestern does not offer any dormitories/residential facilities in the District. Students have been advised to self-quarantine for two weeks and be symptom-free and receive a negative COVID-19 at-home test result before coming to campus.

All students have the option to enroll in the Medill DC program on-line/remotely, and our classroom is being reconfigured to handle hybrid teaching.

B. Support Safety of Employees and Students

Daily Health Screenings

Our Washington campus is located in the One Franklin Square office building. Each person entering One Franklin Square will submit to a self-serve, touchless temperature scan upon arrival. Five scanners are available in the lobby. Any Medill student/faculty/staff with elevated temperature will be advised not to enter the facility and instead to contact faculty/staff and return home.

Each individual will be required to follow University guidelines and complete a “Daily Survey” of health conditions. Individuals will be encouraged to seek medical attention/assistance from their health care provider or advice through Student Health Services via our home campus in Evanston, Illinois. In addition, any student/faculty/staff who develops symptoms through the day will be sent home immediately, and a determination will be made on how to best clean and/or clear the area the individual occupied.

Encourage Health Practices

Our program has procured eight hand sanitizer touchless dispensers to be placed throughout our learning space, as well as gallons of regular and foaming sanitizer to keep the dispensers in operation. We are relying on building management custodial services to ensure soap and paper towels are available in the restrooms. We also have our own supply of soap available at our kitchen sink with a touchless dispenser, though use of the kitchen for food and beverage use is being suspended as per University guidelines. We have a full supply of facial tissues. Sanitizing wipes and gloves are being procured. Building management also makes hand sanitizer and wipes available in common spaces.

In preparation for a safe return, all faculty, staff and students will complete an online training module before returning to campus. This required training covers core responsibilities and has other essential information on precautionary practices.

Before students can attend class in person, they must perform a self-test and receive negative results. Northwestern is coordinating this effort, and it starts with students giving HIPAA authorization for the results to be released to Northwestern. Once a student digitally signs the release, a test kit will be sent to the student, the student will perform the test and return it, and results will be relayed to the student and the University.

Northwestern University has developed contact tracing procedures, an overview of which can be read here.

There are multiple levels in our communication chain. The following channels are in place:

  • The University will send any urgent information via the AlertNU system, which is comprised of email, phone call, text, digital screen, website, and social media alerts.
  • If there is an incident in our building, Hines Management will notify Ivan Meyers and Ellen Shearer via the “Send Word Now” system. Ivan and Ellen will assess and distribute the information accordingly.
  • The Medill Washington program uses an email listserv to distribute information to all current faculty, students, and staff members. Additionally, all students and faculty use a Slack workspace to quickly collaborate and disseminate information.
  • If there is a Medill-specific incident in Evanston, Ivan Meyers will be briefed but operations will likely continue as usual in Washington.

Additional communication detail is explained in section H.

Wall / door signage, seat decals, and floor decals are being placed to visually reinforce guidelines and procedures.

High Risk Individuals

Anyone involved in the Washington program has the option to participate remotely and work from home, with the exception of the on-site coordinator, Ivan Meyers. In the event that the on-site coordinator becomes ill, Ellen Shearer is the designated backup.

Anyone showing symptoms is expected to stay home in order to self-isolate and self-monitor. That person cannot return to campus until a “Return to Work Self-Certification” is complete. This is further detailed in section D.

Students arriving in Washington domestically or internationally for class are to follow CDC-published guidelines for coming to campus.

Social and Mental Health

Northwestern offers counseling and psychological services to all students. The department (“CAPS”) has prepared the following website to aid in expected stress related to COVID-19:

Due to legal reasons, CAPS cannot provide telehealth services for students physically located outside of Illinois, but can refer students to local providers. Medill’s Office of Student Life can also assist with this.

Resources are also available for faculty and staff members.

C. Implementation Controls to Limit Contact

Non-Medical Face Coverings (Masks)

Every faculty, staff member, and student will be issued a “welcome back” kit containing two reusable masks and a bottle of hand sanitizer.

Northwestern requires community members to wear masks in all public and shared environments on campus, including instructional spaces. In all instances, 6-foot physical distancing must also be maintained.

Hines Property Management also requires face masks in all public/shared spaces within the building.

Microphones must be used to minimize the projection of droplets due to voice projection in teaching or presentation situations.

Clear face coverings may be worn to improve ability to read lips; if an accommodation is needed, please the appropriate Northwestern department can assist (Accessible NU for students, or the Office of Equity for faculty and staff.)

In the event that a student, faculty, or staff member does not wear the required face mask/covering, they will be denied entry to the building. We have an extra supply of face masks and can deliver one to the person in question outside of the building.

Social/Physical Distancing

All students have the option to participate in the Medill DC program remotely. A maximum of 15 graduate students will take part in the fall term.

The primary instructional spaces are:

  • An open workspace of 3050 square feet. In this space, students will be placed at least six feet apart. Each student will have a designated tabletop/desk and the floor will be marked/taped as a reminder to maintain safe distances per HELC guidelines. All tabletops/desks will be facing the same direction per HELC guidelines.Newsroom work will be conducted on the following schedule:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
N/A 1 pm to 6 pm 9 am to 6 pm 9 am to 6 pm N/A
  • A seminar room of 752 square feet. Per HELC guidelines, no more than 12 participants will be in this room at a time.

In-person seminars and remote speakers (appearing by video) will use this room on the following schedule:

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Morning 9 am to Noon
“Foundations of Video Journalism” In-Person
Afternoon 3 pm to 6pm
“We the People” In-Person/Remote
Evening 6 pm to 9 pm
“Politics & Presidency” In-Person/Remote
6 pm to 9 pm
“Intro to Podcasting” Remote

Additional rooms (a conference room and two small group workrooms) will not be used and access will be restricted.

The podcast studio will be available only for very limited use (if at all) and only under faculty supervision. Excess chairs will be removed in accordance with HELC guidelines.

Faculty offices will be limited to use by one faculty member and one student at a time.

University produced signage will appear in multiple locations. Hand sanitizer, disposable masks and gloves will be provided for students, faculty and staff.

Only faculty will be allowed to access storage and video facilities in the rear hallway of the suite. Students will each receive their own multimedia kits (i.e., cameras, audio recording units, cables, microphones, etc.) for use during the term. Any additional items that are borrowed will be cleaned and sanitized in accordance with University guidelines by the video faculty before and after use.

Per University guidelines and building policy, no guests (visitors or speakers) will be allowed into the suite. Guest speakers will participate remotely via remote videoconferencing.

Northwestern does not maintain any housing in the District. The only students on our Washington Campus this fall will be graduate students. Extra-curricular programming is minimal and will be modified to take place online, remotely.

Lounge seating will be restricted so the only seats available are at least six feet apart, and wipes will be available for use before and after the seats are used.

Faculty, staff, and students will only use the front doors of the suite for entrance, and only use the back hallway door for exit, and will be marked accordingly. There are two doors to our seminar room. One will be used as an entrance and the other as an exit. Faculty, staff, and students all have personal space within the facility to sit and work while maintaining a minimum of 6 feet social distancing. Staying distanced while in movement is reemphasized visually by floor decals and wall signage.

Medill does not operate dining facilities in Washington. Medill will not provide food or beverages for students, faculty, or staff members. Food will not be permitted in the seminar room; drinks will be permitted but only consumption via a straw is allowed so masks can stay in place.

D. Potential Exposure and Positive COVID-19 Cases

If any member of the program shows symptoms, they are to go home immediately to self-isolate and self-monitor. Testing will be arranged in consultation with medical professionals.

In accordance with University policy, any member of the Northwestern community who tests positive must report the case online.

That page can also be used for those who need to report a social distancing concern.

Anyone reporting positive tests for novel coronavirus infection or COVID-19 will be required to self-isolate at home or at a medical facility as appropriate. Northwestern does not maintain any housing in the District. All support and health care issues including mental health care support will be coordinated through medical experts and student services on our primary campus.

Northwestern maintains a set of procedures for positive cases which Medill DC will follow.

University guidelines also require a “Return to Work Self-Certification” before individuals can return to campus/class. This certification follows the CDC requirements for return after isolation periods (i.e., 72 hours following resolution of fever or ten days since onset of symptoms).

E. Cleaning and disinfecting

Reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by cleaning and disinfection is an important aspect of reopening Northwestern’s campuses. All employees and students with assigned spaces are required to keep a clear desk to enable thorough cleaning of work surfaces. Everyone will regularly wipe down personal work areas and frequently touched objects (i.e., workstations/desks, keyboards, and telephones). Medill Washington is relying on Northwestern’s procurement services to obtain supplies on a regular basis, including extra face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, related touchless dispensers, tissues and signage.

Employees and students are expected to use their own computers; to reduce risk, no computers will be designated as shared resources for the fall term. Lighting turns on automatically at 8 am before personnel arrive and turns off automatically at 11 pm two hours after the last class is concluded (and at the end of the nightly cleaning). Manual controls are available on the wall but use is being discouraged. If lighting has to be adjusted manually, they will be disinfected before and after use. Similarly, classroom control surfaces (touch screens) will be wiped with disinfectant between each use.

Custodial services are delivered by a third-party vendor (ABM) with enhanced cleaning per University guidelines when students are present for extended periods and in the event of reports of confirmed cases or suspected infection.

On-site, full time faculty will aid in wiping common and high-touch areas throughout the day. Employees and students are responsible for wiping down their personal workspace. Custodial services are being engaged (at additional expense) to perform regular enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures.

Outside the suite, enhanced cleaning is provided by building management for all public areas including elevators, door handles, rest rooms and water fountains. From ABM, the custodial provider:

“Currently, Enhanced Cleaning is handled in the common areas of the building by expanding the role of day porter staff. Within the suites and offices, we perform our normal janitorial service of collecting trash, (kitchen areas) vacuuming, (common areas) refresh restrooms and mopping floors on a scheduled basis…

“We have taken precautions within our standard service by switching our standard disinfecting solution to a solution that combats the COVID-19 virus. This includes; elevator buttons, handrails and high touching points.”

Eight hand sanitizer touchless dispensers are being placed throughout our learning space. Medill Washington is relying on Northwestern’s procurements services to keep cleaning supplies in stock. Currently, at least two months of cleaning products and PPE are in stock.

F. Building considerations

Instructional and other Facilities

Students/faculty/staff will be able to access the second-floor Medill DC learning space (Suite 200W) through two stairwells opened with single direction traffic (i.e., up during morning hours and down after mid-day).

In addition, six elevators from the lobby are marked and restricted to two passengers at a time. The elevators are also programmed to return to the lobby immediately, without stopping to pick up additional passengers.

All students, faculty and staff will have touchless access cards to the Medill DC suite and restroom facilities. All individuals will enter through the front glass doors of the suite and depart through the back hallway door. This will be visually reinforced by door / wall signage and floor markings.

Medill DC is located in a building managed by Hines Property Group. Engineers flush the building’s plumbing system weekly, have increased air circulation within the building, and cleaned and increased circulation of the building’s rooftop cooling towers.

Building management has implemented limited access throughout both West and East towers. The penthouses and rooftop terraces are closed until further notice.

In restrooms, access has been restricted to every other stall and every other sink. Hand sanitizer is available in all public spaces (lobby, outside elevators on every floor).

Building management has posted advisories and instruction regarding safe distancing, self-isolation, health indicators, hand-washing, temperature screening, and mask wearing throughout the building.


Northwestern does not maintain any housing in the District. Students arrange for their own housing and are expected to follow social distancing guidelines.

G. Shutdown Considerations If Necessitated by Severe Conditions and/or Public Health Guidance

The number of individuals in our space will be relatively low this term. If there is cause to suspect an outbreak, personnel will be sent home while we discuss the situation with leaders at Northwestern and the DC government, following aforementioned policies and guidelines. For those who are not feeling ill, classes can continue online remotely until it is deemed safe to resume in person or an outbreak is remediated. The primary method of contact will be email, but phones and instant messaging/online collaboration tools will be used as well.

H. Communication Strategy

The designated on-site contact (Ivan Meyers) will communicate with DC Health for reporting positive cases. Names are kept confidential within Northwestern via the online, secure reporting process.

All faculty, staff members, and students in close contact with an affected individual will be notified that there is a confirmed case via email and/or phone. Contact tracers will be in touch with affected personnel separately. Seating chart records will be maintained to aid in contact tracing. Special cleaning schedules and potential space evacuation will be considered, coordinated, and carried out as deemed necessary.

All confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Northwestern community are also reported on the Northwestern website.

I. Academic Affairs

Medill is not offering internships or practicums during the fall term. However, students are credentialed journalists through the U.S. Senate and will be expected to do some in-person reporting. When that is the case, student reporters are expected to maintain social distancing guidelines as well as specific Capitol / Senate or House Press Gallery rules. Remote reporting will be encouraged as appropriate.

University resources such as library material, COVID guidelines, etc. are available online. Faculty and staff are available via Zoom, phone, and email for human-based resources such as academic advising, career services, and other student affairs. Students in our graduate program are required to use their own laptops.


We are continuing to monitor guidelines, assess the health of our faculty, staff members, and students, and have presented the key elements of our planning and preparation with links as appropriate. Northwestern University maintains a special section of its website further detailing its policies and procedures, which are being actively reevaluated and updated, available here.

If you have any questions or need additional clarification, please do not hesitate to reach out to Ivan Meyers at (202) 661-0150 or