The Tippecanoe County Health Department Wednesday reminded Purdue University football fans to remain aware of COVID-19 risks this weekend as the Boilermakers start the season at home on Saturday.
“This virus loves crowds,” said Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler. “It loves to spread easily through crowds, particularly indoor crowds. In situations where social distancing and face coverings are not being used, this virus really thrives. And so we all need to take that into consideration when we look at various get-togethers surrounding college football games.”
West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis said the city, including the police and fire departments, was working with Purdue and would be monitoring gatherings in the area.
“The messaging has been communicated,” Dennis said. “People understand that celebrations because of a sports performance doesn’t make the virus go away.”
Dennis also said he would have made changes to a letter he signed along with the mayors of other Big Ten cities this week, which underlined the heightened risks of COVID-19 spread from the social activities surrounding football games. The mayors asked the conference to involve local health officials and weigh a community’s positivity rate when making decisions about holding games.
“In West Lafayette and Purdue, we’re actually performing better,” Dennis said. “Some of our numbers aren’t close to what some of the other university communities are.”
Protect Purdue Health Center chief medical officer Dr. Esteban Ramirez said this weekend’s football events would look “very different,” and include student-only outdoor activities on campus, no tailgating, and closed parking lots.
“We’ve been sending notifications as of this week on how to be able to celebrate our football team -- how they’re doing -- and how do we safely do that?” Ramirez said. “Maintaining social distancing, keeping your masks on.”
Wednesday’s COVID-19 case data from Purdue University showed 140 students and 12 employees tested positive for COVID-19 between Oct. 13 and Oct. 19, with a seven-day testing positivity rate of 2.67%.
Adler said Tippecanoe County’s average number of daily new cases by week continued to show an increase, with a peak of 48.7 average cases per day last week.
“It’s dropped a little bit thus far this week, to 40.6,” Adler said. “However, the week is not over quite yet.”