Health officials warn curve of local COVID cases going "almost straight up”
Tippecanoe County health officials held a press conference alongside West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis Wednesday imploring residents to take COVID-19 precautions seriously.
Hospital officials warned that positive cases have continued to shoot up - meaning a likely influx of patients is coming to hospitals already at capacity.
Franciscan Health’s Dr. Daniel Wickert said the upward curve of COVID positive cases is concerning.
“That curve is going up, like almost straight up,” he said. “What that means is that within seven to 14 days, that’s when we start seeing people that require hospitalization… that has implications for us as a hospital for what we’re going to be seeing in the next few weeks.
Mayor John Dennis said officials don’t want to return to the “draconian measures” of mask mandates and called on the public to step up.
“Until we make the necessary minor personal sacrifices we are going to continue to have meetings like this, and we are going to continue to struggle to have our hospitals in a position to serve those in urgent need,” he said. “More importantly we’re going to get closer to that dark age where we’re going to have to start making decisions that none of us wants to make anymore.”
County commissioners have the final say over any local mask requirements.
Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tracy Brown said he isn’t interested in a mandate.
“It’s very clear they are virtually impossible to enforce and we want to continue to focus people on handwashing, social distancing, masking when they think that is appropriate, and vaccines,” he said. “People have strong feelings when it comes to government mandates.”
Health officials also urged residents to mask up while indoors and avoid attending holiday gatherings if they feel sick.
Dr. Christopher Mansfield, with IU Health Arnett, has previously raised concerns about the crowds of unmasked fans attending Purdue basketball games.
Protect Purdue Health Center’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Esteban Ramirez told reporters that the university was watching COVID numbers closely and discussing how to handle the possible spread of the virus at games.
“Everyone should be wearing masks,” he said. “We’re plastering that everywhere… but as you know, you can be told something but that doesn't mean anyone is going to follow through with it.”
Ramirez added that fans should at least wear a mask to protect Purdue’s team.
“We’re currently risking the potential of this team that’s in first place to potentially get sick and knocked out of contention because of our own selfishness,” he said. “I think it would be a shame for our team to not have that opportunity because people didn’t mask up when we needed them to.”
Tippecanoe County remained in the orange category on the state’s COVID metrics map Wednesday, with the Indiana Department of Health reporting 160 confirmed cases and one death. The county’s seven day all-tests positivity rate was at 12.1%.