Northwestern University today announced plans to have first and second year undergraduate students return to campus for winter term.

Those students had been told to stay away from Evanston and take classes remotely this fall.

NU President Morton Schapiro in a message to students said the decision to have the additional students return to campus is based on experience so far this fall “and will stand as long as it is safe to do so.”

He says all students who return to campus must adhere to all campus safety measures, have daily symptom checks and ongoing testing.

He noted that for much of the fall the positivity rate based on campus-wide testing has been below 0.6%, although there was an uptick last week to just below 1%.

Schapiro said the positive cases “primarily have been in small clusters of students, many resulting from off-campus social gatherings.” He said there have been few documented cases of on-campus transmission among students and no instances of on-campus transmission involving students and faculty or staff.

But he cautioned that the school is not immune to rising case levels in the region.

As long as the positive rate stabilizes, “we will be able to continue to support the COVID-related needs of our community,” Schapiro added.

The announcement of the decision to bring back the first and second year students came as the school also revised its COVID-19 dashboard with a new framework for determining campus activity levels and set the level at “yellow”, which calls for increased testing and no increases in in-person activity.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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