Purdue University Tuesday outlined its plans for an in-person start to the second semester, as the school reported its sharpest increase in COVID-19 testing positivity rates this academic year.
The school’s COVID dashboard, updated for the first time since mid-December, showed a seven-day testing positivity rate of 16.43%. The overall testing positivity rate from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31 was 1.73%.
A statement on the dashboard webpage said the university had focused its recent testing on symptomatic individuals and close contacts of those exposed to COVID, and that “because of this, positivity rates are influenced and expected to be elevated for several more weeks.”
“In the fall, we had hoped and expected to reduce some safety requirements early this semester, but the emergence of the Omicron variant has forced us to delay any such easing, at least for a while,” Purdue said in a statement sent to the school community Tuesday.
According to the letter, signed by the Protect Purdue Implementation Team, students living in university residences should not return to campus if they have been diagnosed with COVID or are experiencing symptoms. The school will continue to require masks in many indoor spaces, and the Purdue community was urged to purchase face coverings that offer higher levels of protection against COVID transmission, such as N95 and KN95 masks.
“I think the mask wearing is going to be critical,” said Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler. “For the university population – if there are students and faculty or staff who have not yet been vaccinated – trying to encourage those folks to get vaccinated.”
According to Purdue, 88% of the West Lafayette campus community has been vaccinated, but that number does not include booster shots. The school recommended that those who have not received a booster shot schedule one “today”.
Purdue’s spring semester begins Monday, Jan. 10.