Citing an uptick in COVID-19 cases on campus, Northwestern University is requiring all undergraduate students to take an additional COVID test this week.

While the numbers still remain low, University Vice-President Luke Figora says “we did see an increase in positive cases toward the end of last week among our undergraduate students – primarily driven by off-campus social activity.”

The new testing requirement covers both vaccinated and unvaccinated students.

COVID vaccination is required for NU students unless they receive a religious or other exemption, and the university says more than 97% of students are fully vaccinated.

However, in a statement on the NU website, Figora says, “that doesn’t mean that new cases on our campus can’t occur and spread in our community.”

NU students were required to be COVID-tested upon arrival in Evanston or Chicago, and then take another test three-to-four days later.

Originally, vaccinated students did not have to be tested again following those initial checks, but the new requirement changes that.

NU’s COVID dashboard for the week of September 17-23 lists 8 positive cases among staff, 14 among non-undergraduate students, and 61 among undergrads.

That contrasts with only nine student cases among more than 10,000 asymptomatic tests as of the week before.

This week’s required undergraduate testing is available at the Jacobs Center, 2001 Sheridan Rd.

Separate from the new requirement, all unvaccinated students must be COVID-tested twice a week as the school year progresses.

Even though Northwestern and Evanston have lower COVID positivity rates than do most places around the country, Figora says, “We need to remember that the pandemic isn’t over. Our collective actions will determine how typical of a year we can have.”

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