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Science & Medicine

A new wave of COVID-19, but messaging from Tippecanoe County health officials remains unchanged

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Dr. Wicker and Dr. Mansfield report on the state of their respective hospitals (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)

Tippecanoe County health officials are warning that COVID-19 is “rearing its ugly head again” as both new cases and hospitalizations have increased over the last few weeks.

Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler said the county’s numbers have already exceeded the September COVID surge.

“Those are daily numbers we haven’t seen since last February,” he said.

The Indiana Department of Health reported 155 confirmed county cases Wednesday, 172 Thursday, and 155 Friday. Statewide, Indiana reported over 6,000 new cases Wednesday, and over 5,600 on Thursday and Friday.

Adler said the department will be watching the numbers closely to see how the Thanksgiving holiday impacts COVID cases. But Adler avoided saying whether county commissioners, who have local authority over COVID restrictions, should consider a mask mandate.

“Whether we have a mandate or not, it’s important for all of us to heed the advice of the CDC,” he said.

During a press conference on Friday, hospital officials with Franciscan and IU Health Arnett echoed concerns about how Thanksgiving might impact COVID numbers, and stressed that they were once again at capacity.

Dr. Christopher Mansfield, with IU Health Arnett, said he expects the numbers to continue trending upwards. Local cases doubled in the span of time just before Thanksgiving to the start of this week.

“If you put any stock in predictive analytics and you look at what the next six to eight weeks looks like, it’s really just a straight line going up,” he said.

At both Franciscan and IU Health Arnett, officials say over 90% of people hospitalized for COVID are unvaccinated.

Indoor masking and vaccination against COVID are still the primary way for reducing stress on hospitals, but officials also stopped short of calling for a mask mandate.

Dr. Daniel Wickert with Franciscan said he feels the local mayors and county commissioners have listened to hospital officials.

“The kind of relationships and the kind of communication we are allowed to have with them, we’re very thankful for that,” he said.

Mansfield did, however, note some concerns around basketball games at Purdue’s Mackey Arena.

“If you take an enclosed arena that seats 14,000 strong, there is an increased risk. Period,” he said. “I love Purdue basketball, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to be safe in our community. We don’t want a spreader-type event.”

Mansfield said that in attending games he is masked, vaccinated, and boosted and recommends any attendees do the same.

“You don’t have an 88% vaccination rate of everyone attending a Purdue basketball game. I by no means am saying don’t have fans at Purdue basketball,” he said. “Having a sign and carrying it up and down an aisle saying ‘wear your mask’ doesn’t seem to be terribly effective. I think other messaging needs to go out.”

Dr. Wickert reiterated that Purdue has been a good community partner in handling COVID.

“We’re thankful for what they’ve done in the past,” he said. “They’ve made wise decisions and I think they will in the future.”