It’s either a sign that the crisis nature of COVID-19 is no longer with us, or we’re all just getting used to the virus as an ongoing fact of life, but Northwestern University is cutting back on some of its COVID-mitigation measures which were implimented earlier in the pandemic.
In a website message to students and employees, Vice-President Luke Figora and two other top administrators say that “Northwestern will phase out its requirement for booster shots,” which took effect in January.
Figora says that more than 95% of the Northwestern community has already reported receiving at least one booster.
NU says “while boosters don’t necessarily prevent individuals from contracting COVID-19 or transmitting it to others,” they are important tools in reducing the severity of the illness.
Figora says if future boosters “provide different benefits than what we know today,” NU’s booster requirment may be reinstated.
The first set of COVID shots (two Moderna, two Pfizer, one J&J) will still be mandated for all students, faculty, and staff unless they have received an approved exemption.
Those with such exemptions still have to be tested once a week for COVID-19 if they will be on campus this summer. However, the demand for such testing is now so low, that testing hours at the Evanston and Chicago campuses are being reduced.
NU continues to “strongly recommend” mask usage in areas where distancing is not possible, however, masking remains “recommended,” not “required.”
And after the June 17 weekly update, the university’s COVID dashboard will no longer report test positivity rates, only the total number of new positive cases.
The latest data (June 3-9) shows a 6.77 positivity rate, and 142 new cases.
Figora says “This decision comes as hospitalization and severe case data now play a dominant role in determining community guidelines,” as opposed to the major consideration given to positivity rates earlier in the pandemic.
The NU administrators say the university “successfully navigated the twists and turns of COVID-19 through another academic year.”
They note that “as the world adapts to the long-term nature of this pandemic, Northwestern will do the same,” in other words, reducing some mitigation.
Of course, they also note, as has been the case in every COVID-19 regulation update, that while rules may be changing, they could always change back if things get worse.
“We will remain nimble and responsive,” Figora says.