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

Northwestern University has dropped its COVID-19 testing requirement.

But the vaccination mandate stays.

In a message Monday to NU students and staff, Vice President Luke Figora and Provost Kathleen Hagerty explain that weekly COVID testing is “no longer required” for individuals who have an approved exemption from the shots.

That’s a very small number, as the officials say that more than 98% of the university community — students, faculty, and staff — has met the immunization requirement. Testing was not required for them.

As for boosters, Northwestern had previously phased out that mandate. However, Figora and Hagerty say that NU still “strongly recommend(s) boosters” as a way of “minimizing severe illness.” And the booster requirement might be reinstated “if future boosters provide different benefits than we know today.”

Next issue: Quarantining. That will no longer be required for those who are simply exposed to COVID, but do not test positive.

However, for on-campus residential students who come down with a confirmed case, NU will provide isolation housing “at least through the remainder of the calendar year.”

Plus, those testing positive, students or employees, are still required to report that to the university.

In addition, “To support academic flexibility,” the administrators say, instructors who teach an in-person class “may teach up to 10% of their class sessions remotely in the fall.”

The new rules cover the rest of the summer session, as well as the upcoming 2022-23 school year unless otherwise noted.

If your head is spinning, not from COVID but rather from all of the changes, the modifications are in line with the latest federal and local guidelines.

“The COVID-19 landscape at Northwestern” and in surrounding communities “has remained stable” since earlier in the summer, the officials say.

But, as has been the case since March 2020 when the pandemic roared across the world, things can change quickly.

“While we adapt to the long-term nature of COVID-19,” Figora and Hagerty say, “we will also remain nimble and responsive to the trajectory of the pandemic.”

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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