Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, along with Greater Lafayette and university health care leaders, signed an open letter to Tippecanoe County’s health officer Tuesday urging him to allow the health department’s bar and restaurant order -- enforced since August -- to remain in place for another month. The letter comes after local officials have voiced support for removing some restrictions.
Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler’s guidelines include capping capacity at 75 percent and closing establishments at midnight. The county order is more strict than Stage 5 of Indiana’s reopening plan, which allows restaurants to open at full capacity with social distancing.
The letter, published in the Lafayette Journal and Courier, addresses the push for Adler to roll back some of the rules outlined in the order. Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski has voiced his support for a later closing time, and he and Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tracy Brown have both addressed the financial impact the order has had on local businesses.
But the letter points to the broader economic impact on the community if relaxed guidelines at bars and restaurants lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases that could send Purdue students home -- and asks for a delay in making changes to the order until more time has been spent in Stage 5 to gauge its impact.
West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis supported the letter, saying it acknowledged the connection between Purdue and the rest of the community.
“If we move too quickly forward, and go through our process of opening things up -- specifically in West Lafayette -- that can create some significant challenges for us, because when you look at the population density, and the ease of transmission from one person to another, we could have some real serious problems in a real quick period of time,” Dennis said.
The letter also underlined the potential health risks.
“The data on COVID-19 community spread gathered over the past nine months clearly indicate that indoor venues such as restaurants and bars represent the most risky of environments,” the letter said.
Purdue’s Tuesday COVID-19 update reported 209 students and 10 employees have tested positive for coronavirus between Sept. 21 and Sept. 27, with a seven-day testing positivity rate of 3.89 percent. Eight hundred tenty-five students and 37 employees have tested positive since Aug. 1.
The letter was signed by Purdue President Mitch Daniels, Purdue College of Pharmacy Dean Eric Barker, Protect Purdue Health Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Esteban Ramirez, Purdue Senior Director of Environmental Health and Public Safety Carol Shelby, IU Health Arnett Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Bien, and Dr. Dan Wickert, vice president of medical affairs at Franciscan Health Lafayette.