NU requires additional COVID-19 testing amid case spike


Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staffer

Students wait to get COVID-19 tested in long line in front of the Jacobs Center. After a week of Fall Quarter and Wildcat Welcome events, NU reported COVID-19 positive cases statistics and mandates additional testing for all undergraduate students for this week.

Angeli Mittal, Design Editor

Northwestern will require all undergraduate students, regardless of vaccination status, to complete at least one COVID-19 test by Oct. 1, the University announced Sunday.

The change came following an increase in positive COVID-19 cases the week of Sept. 17. The University reported a positivity rate of 0.65% from approximately 4,000 tests received throughout the week of Sept. 10. While the number of tests over the past week increased threefold, the positivity rate stayed roughly the same at 0.66%, with positive cases accounting for 81 of the tests taken compared to 28 the previous week.

While the University’s Sunday email attributes the increase in positive cases among the undergraduate population to “off-campus social activity,” no specific evidence was cited to justify this assertion.

The recent influx of new positive cases coincided with Wildcat Welcome events held for the incoming class and the class of 2024, including Rock the Lake and March Through the Arch. Orientation week culminated with the Six Flags Great America trip, which brought together the class of 2025, the class of 2024 and transfer students, double the number of students who typically attend. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines state that fully vaccinated individuals should seek testing if they’ve come into close contact with an individual who tested positive or if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. However, the University is asking all undergraduates to complete a test this week on the basis of “the importance of ensuring our campus remains healthy.” Unvaccinated individuals are still required to maintain twice-a-week COVID-19 testing.

No mention was made about requiring a COVID-19 test this week for NU populations other than undergraduate students.

While the University notes that there are no public health restrictions on gathering sizes, social distancing or outdoor events, administrators ask the community to be mindful in the planning of such events to help efforts to contain the spread of the virus. This includes picking outdoor venues over indoor ones, as well as choosing venue spaces accordingly given the number of expected attendees for an event.

The CDC also recommends wearing a mask outdoors if maintaining six feet of distance is not possible. While neither the University nor the CDC require outdoor masking, NU’s reminder for the community to be “prudent when planning events or gatherings” falls short of the other CDC-recommended guidelines.

Information is still developing as more research is conducted on the spread of the delta variant, especially among fully vaccinated individuals. The University has also mentioned the possibility of extending mandated testing as it continues to evaluate positive cases.

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Twitter: @amittal27

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Northwestern’s COVID-19 on-campus requirements, activities: Explained