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Tippecanoe County, Purdue University post relatively high COVID-19 numbers

Purdue University put out a press release Monday regarding high COVID positivity rates on campus (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in both Tippecanoe County and on the campus of Purdue University have recently outpaced the rest of the state.

Tippecanoe County currently has the highest number of cases per ten thousand residents of any county in Indiana. At Purdue, the university reported a 21% testing positivity rate within its campus community - close to the all-time high.

A spokesperson for the school underlined that they are only testing people who are symptomatic or have been knowingly exposed to COVID, which makes the numbers seem higher than they actually are. But, the spokesperson acknowledged, “the virus is still around.”

Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler said the numbers being reported are artificially low because at-home tests aren’t being reported.

“These are the cases we know based on laboratory testing. There’s actually more out there than are being reported on the dashboard,” he said.

Screen Shot 2022-04-25 at 4.13.38 PM.png
Indiana's COVID dashboard map for positive cases. Numbers per 10,000 residents.

Tippecanoe County is also among the counties with the highest levels of testing for COVID -- something Adler said could also be adding to the increased numbers.

“Part of it is a function of testing,” Adler said. “If we have more testing being done, particularly through Purdue University, we are going to capture some of those cases that would otherwise maybe not be captured – because those individuals would have not been tested, or would have been tested through at-home tests.”

Purdue officials did note that wastewater surveillance testing for COVID, often a good indicator of the virus’s presence, was showing a rise in viral load in the community.

Ultimately, Adler said the uptick is not surprising.

“As we see mask usage decrease, as we see gatherings and social activities increase, and as we get back more back to our typical pre-pandemic lifestyle and activities, it’s really not that surprising that we’re starting to see more cases,” he said.

Adler said thankfully hospitalizations and deaths have remained low across the county.

“We have a very low hospitalization rate for COVID-19 right now,” he said. “While it suggests people are still getting sick with COVID-19, they are having milder cases - we use the term milder relatively, meaning they are not sick enough to be in the hospital, [but] they can obviously still be quite sick from it.”

In a press release following WBAA’s request for comment, university officials called on the Purdue community to “finish strong,” and encouraged vaccination and booster shots.