NU students line up for COVID tests on Monday, Jan. 3. (Jeff Hirsh photo)

No news, as they say, is good news. And the good news for students and staff at Northwestern University is there is no news about COVID-19 spreading enough to trigger a resumption of mandatory masking on campus.

In a message to the NU community, Vice President Luke Figora, and three other top administrators, say, “Absent any major changes to the impact of the pandemic on our community, we will maintain our current approach through the end of the academic year.”

In other words, the mask-optional policy remains for classrooms. In fact, instructors may not require masking of others “unless they are directed to do so as part of an approved disability accommodation.”

Figora says the university “has not observed any significant clusters of positive cases or transmission in classrooms.”

He does say that in April, NU “used targeted mitigation strategies to address small spikes in contained communities such as residence halls,” and such strategies will continue if needed. Specifics on those strategies were not mentioned.

However, Figora also notes that case levels have stabilized at NU in recent weeks, and the number of residence hall students in quarantine and isolation housing is also “far below capacity and the peak we experienced in January.”

The most recent week’s data shows a 5.12% positivity rate, and 189 new positive cases for the period April 22-28.

Of course, if anything has been learned over the past couple of years, it’s that the coronavirus can get worse just when you figure it’s gotten better.

So while there are no changes expected for the rest of the current school year, NU will continue to monitor cases.

As for the fall, the university will “assess our needs over the summer in consultation with public health and our ownmedical experts.”

And while masks are not required, the University “strongly recommends wearing a mask in areas where distancing is not possible.”

The administrators say “Let’s finish the academic year strong and healthy.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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