NU COVID-19 positivity rate reaches highest of the pandemic as University announces it has no plans to increase mitigation measures


Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staffer

In a Thursday email, Vice President for Operations Luke Figora announced the University has no plans to revise its COVID-19 policies.

Angeli Mittal, Creative Director

Northwestern’s positivity rate reached the highest reported throughout the pandemic at 7.40%, according to University data published Friday, with campus opened to full capacity and no changes to testing or masking requirements.

The second highest reported positivity rate while a majority of students were still on campus occurred earlier this quarter at 5.91%. Previously, a rate of 5.98% was also reported at the end of Fall Quarter when most students had already left campus for Winter Break. Since the beginning of Spring Quarter, NU has not had any on-campus masking requirements or mandatory testing protocols. 

However, since the 5.91% positivity rate for the week of April 8, this metric has remained stable at over 5% while the number of tests received declined in the following weeks. This week’s positivity rate represents a 2.28 percentage point increase from last week’s 5.12%.

Though the number of new reported positive cases had been declining in the same time span, the University reported 302 new positive cases this week — almost 60% more than the 189 reported last week.

While this number is two cases down from the 304 reported the week of April 8, the number of tests received also declined by 20% from that week.

Of the 302 University cases, faculty make up significantly more cases compared to the previous week with 47, up from 16. 

Undergraduate students continue to comprise the majority of the cases with 106 positives, while non-undergraduate students account for 89 cases. Staff members this week constitute 60 of the cases.

Friday’s COVID-19 metric updates come just one day after Vice President of Operations Luke Figora announced in an email Thursday that the University will maintain its no mask mandate in all public spaces until the end of the academic year. 

While Figora said these policies will remain in effect given the lack of “significant clusters of positive cases or transmission in classrooms,” the level of significance has not been clearly defined, especially in light of halted contact tracing efforts since Jan. 1.

Rather, the email cited the use of hospitalization metrics as a better indicator for tracking community health, though the University has not reported such metrics to this day. 

However, even as Evanston has begun to adopt these metrics in line with state and national guidance, the city moved to a “Medium” transmission level Thursday due to the influx of cases reported.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the only variants now seen in the U.S. are omicron subvariants, with BA.2 being the dominant strain. However, sub variant BA.2.12.1 has been accounting for more COVID-19 cases nationwide at 36.5%.

NU students, faculty and staff can receive free, in-person asymptomatic testing at the Donald P. Jacobs Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m on weekdays. Those with symptoms should use the northwest side testing entrance at the Jacobs Center to receive in-person testing between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.

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Twitter: @amittal27

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