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85% of NIU students learning in-person have received a COVID-19 vaccine

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Last fall, only 15% of classes at Northern Illinois University were in-person. Even so, after Labor Day 2020, NIU was forced to move completely remote for two weeks because of a high number of positive COVID cases.

The late-summer delta variant surge concerned many as campus re-opened, but the school has avoided large-scale outbreaks this year even with nearly five times the people on campus. The number of in-person classes has flipped to 75%, which is close to the ratio NIU has in a non-pandemic year.

NIU Chief of Staff to the president Matt Streb says the difference is simple: vaccinations. 85% of students are fully vaccinated so far.

“We probably get two dozen new students who upload their vaccine cards just about every day, we're at about 92% of our faculty and staff on campus who are vaccinated,” he said.

Streb says last year many COVID cases spread through roommates. A person was infected and then that one case quickly became four.

“We've had a handful of breakthrough cases. But even there, the people who've been exposed to the breakthrough case, because they're vaccinated, we're not seeing that one case turns into four in the same way,” he said.

Over 1,000 NIU students were granted personal vaccine exemptions this summer, but now due to FDA full authorization, must receive a shot before Nov. 1st.

According to data obtained from the Freedom of Information Act, 400 students were granted a religious exemption and 51 due to medical reasons. All unvaccinated NIU students participate in weekly surveillance testing. The positivity rate for unvaccinated students and staff as of now is under 1%.

Masks are mandated indoors across campus, regardless of vaccination status. The university is also planning to expand wastewater surveillance testing to monitor COVID spikes at individual dorms.