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West Lafayette Ends Enforcement Of City Mask Mandate

Emilie Syberg
The city began mandating masks in July 2020.

West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis issued an executive order Friday ending the enforcement of the city’s mask-wearing ordinance. The move followed Thursday’s announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks or socially distance.

Dennis reiterated Friday he will urge the complete withdrawal of the mandate at the next city council meeting on June 7. 

“I think as a society, the level of awareness, the level of awareness of transmission, and the willingness to accept responsibility on their own behalf -- in other words, getting vaccinated, or wearing a mask in the event that they don’t -- is allowing for us to feel a little more comfortable about loosening up a little bit on some of the regulations and the restrictions that we’ve had here, specifically in West Lafayette,” Dennis said.

The city’s mask mandate has been in effect since July 2020. Dennis said as of Friday morning, no citations for violating the mandate have ever been issued. 

“Any time that you try to codify behavior, there’s going to be challenges,” Dennis said. “Everything is so subjective, and mask mandates are the tip of that spear right now.”

Dennis said the shift would align West Lafayette with the policies of Tippecanoe County and the state of Indiana.  

The city’s mandate is not affected by this week’s passage of SB5, which put decision-making power over such restrictions back in the hands of local elected officials. On Wednesday, Tippecanoe County commissionersrescindedthe county health department’s remaining COVID-19 restriction.

Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler said Friday the CDC’s updated information was “good news for all of us”.

“I hope that this new CDC guideline will motivate individuals who have not gotten vaccinated yet to really consider getting vaccinated,” Adler said. “You know, there are so many other good reasons to get vaccinated -- namely, protecting yourself and protecting your family and your loved ones  -- but this new guideline certainly provides a path back to normal life with the vaccine.”

Still, Adler said only about 40% of Tippecanoe County residents are currently fully vaccinated -- so continuing with preventative measures is important.

“The tricky part of it for businesses and organizations is that you really don’t know if everyone coming through your door is really fully vaccinated,” Adler said. “So you have to assume that a good number of them are not. And so for businesses and organizations, I think it’s important -- for the time being -- to continue with a mask requirement until we get more people vaccinated.”

 The CDC’s updated guidelines assert that fully vaccinated people can return to “activities you did before the pandemic”. But the guidance also underlines that restrictions put in place by federal, state, and local governments -- as well as workplaces and businesses -- must continue to be followed.