Northwestern University is warning students to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines or else … or else more people will get sick, and the university will have to clamp down with new restrictions.

In an email to students, Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, vice president for student affairs, and Luke Figora, chief risk and compliance officer, say, “We are beginning to see more concerning behaviors in our undergraduate community that are jeopardizing our efforts to keep our community safe.”

NU’s positive test rate has jumped in the past seven days to 5.95% — a result mostly of a drop in the number of tests conducted but also an increase in the number of cases.

Tests, which have averaged about 5,000 per week since last August have fallen to just 504 in the seven day period ending Sunday and the school has reported 30 new positive tests in that period. That’s about average for the school year so far, but higher than some recent weeks.

The administrators say there has been an increase in daily cases, due to students not following protocols such as social distancing, wearing masks, and limiting contact to very small groups.

While the majority of students, NU says, are following the rules, most of the positive COVID cases “can be traced back to small-to-medium sized social gatherings and dinners.”

If the increase in cases is not reversed, “additional restrictions will be established,” the university states.

NU also says that the university has been approved as a COVID vaccine administration site for students, faculty, and staff once supplies become more readily available.

To make sure NU is prepared, the university is running “two very small pilot vaccination efforts on campus” for some faculty and staff over age 65 who have not yet been vaccinated through other means.

However, NU states “it will likely be a few more weeks before supply is great enough” that vaccine can be allocated directly to the university for larger vaccination events. The City of Evanston also plans to use some Northwestern facilities for “community mass vaccination efforts,” according to NU.

Evanston is now under vaccination category 1(b), those age 65 and over, as well as essential workers such as first responders, transit workers, and teachers. However, there is currently not enough vaccine available for everyone who meets those criteria.

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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