Protecting a Unique City of 53,000+ People

One of the nation’s first universities to commit to reopening in 2020 during the pandemic, Purdue operated on the premise that having as many students safely on campus as possible was critical to delivering the full Boilermaker educational experience. By successfully navigating the challenges of the highly transmissible coronavirus during the 2020-21 school year, Purdue committed to a return to pre- COVID-19 operations for the Fall 2021 semester.

While recognizing that continuing uncertainties of the coronavirus might require some modifications, Purdue implemented and modified protocols to create as safe a learning environment as possible for a community of more than 53,000 people. Key Protect Purdue measures for a new school year focused on:

  • Re-densifying all classrooms, living spaces, dining halls, libraries, workspaces and research laboratories.
  • Returning athletics venues to full occupancy levels.
  • Hosting a variety of student and community events.
  • Welcoming back alumni and visitors.
  • Significantly reducing the number of isolation/quarantine spaces.
  • Reinstating pre-pandemic academic attendance policies.

Purdue’s pledge for a safe return to normal, in-person instruction gained national and global attention for its stance to run toward, and not away from, the challenges of the pandemic. The result: Purdue welcomed its largest freshman class ever in August 2021 — 10,191 first-year students contributing to record enrollment of 49,639.

Health Safety Measures to Learn, Work

With a campuswide COVID-19 vaccination rate above 80% and a robust weekly surveillance testing plan for students and employees, Purdue classrooms, living spaces, dining halls, libraries workspaces and laboratories returned to full density for the Fall 2021 semester.

Regardless of vaccination status, face masks were required in all indoor campus spaces for everyone, including students, employees and visitors. Purdue had announced its intent to start the fall semester with little or no use of face masks, but heightened concerns about the highly contagious and more severe Delta variant prompted a change.

Purdue continued to accommodate and support employees working in a full or partial remote status as part of the University’s comprehensive plan to mitigate COVID-19’s spread and protect the most vulnerable in our community.

Nearly two years into the pandemic, over 6,300 faculty and staff — of Purdue’s more than 11,000 employees — were fully remote or in a combined, hybrid remote status on any given day during the Fall 2021 semester. Additionally, 4,500 faculty and staff came to the West Lafayette campus to perform their duties.

  • Remote employees were supported in obtaining necessary home-office equipment.
  • An ongoing training curriculum assisted supervisors and employees in developing remote working strategies and tactics.
  • Flexible work arrangements were encouraged to support employees needing to care for children or others as child care centers and local schools grappled with the pandemic.

Learning and Instruction

Students and faculty continued to respond to ongoing efforts to adapt instruction during the relentless waves of the pandemic as learning returned to pre-COVID-19 operations. Purdue’s offering of face-to-face and hybrid courses was substantially higher than its peers, many of which were fully online. Students achieved academic outcomes (e.g., GPAs, Credit Hours earned) on par with pre-pandemic semesters, a major achievement.

Sanitizing supplies were provided in classrooms, as students were encouraged to clean and sanitize desktops, shared equipment (e.g., computer keyboards), and other spaces before and after each use.

Students and instructors were reminded not to come to class if they felt ill, had a fever or exhibited symptoms associated with COVID-19.

All learning spaces, including labs, up to 300 seats operated at 100% capacity.

As was done pre-pandemic, 100% online courses were only offered if they added value and/or were an integral part of a unit’s portfolio of course offerings.

Help Through the Protect Purdue Health Center

The Protect Purdue Health Center, which launched as a 24/7 virtual center in July 2020 under the leadership of Dr. Esteban Ramirez, has remained the University’s first line of defense in the battle against COVID-19. Staffed by an expert team of medical doctors, case managers and contact tracers, PPHC has coordinated COVID-19 sampling, testing, quarantine, isolation and contact tracing for all students, faculty and staff to quickly and
effectively respond to cases of or exposure to the coronavirus. During the Fall 2021 semester alone, PPHC:

  • DEPLOYED 25 dedicated case managers.
  • EMPLOYED 12 contact tracers.
  • RESPONDED to 115,131 inbound email inquiries.
  • ADDRESSED 36,353 phone calls.
  • SUPPORTED sampling with 65 COVID-19 testing staffers.
  • ASSISTED 26,939 patients during isolation and quarantine – including those in Purdue-provided accommodations and those who resided off campus.
  • ADMINISTERED 53,998 doses of COVID-19 vaccine and 11,256 Boosters to Purdue students, faculty, staff, spouses, dependents and retirees.

Repurposed Existing Space for Isolation/Quarantine

At the height of the pandemic during the 2020-21 school year, Purdue set aside and provided roughly 1,000 beds for those in quarantine and isolation, providing additional services and care at no cost for that space, such as meals, medical monitoring and transportation. Beginning in July 2021, significantly fewer beds were reserved for this purpose as vaccinated individuals were not required to quarantine if exposed to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19, provided that that vaccinated individual was not symptomatic.

With fewer on-campus accommodations and since their availability couldn’t be guaranteed, all Boilermakers for the fall semester were asked to have a personal plan for proper isolation or quarantine should it be necessary, particularly unvaccinated individuals who tested positive or were exposed to an individual who had tested positive for COVID-19.







Pre-COVID-19 Academic, Classroom and Attendance Policies

Virtually all academic and classroom policies returned to pre-COVID-19 standards for the fall semester, including regulations on class attendance. Per Purdue’s pre-COVID-19 policy, students were expected to attend class and inform the instructor if absent due to illness. Instructors made accommodations by excusing students or allowing them to make up work when possible. Individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 were not guaranteed remote access to all course activities, materials and assignments or support from academic case managers.

Protecting Local Health Care Systems

Efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 were aimed to “flatten the curve” to preserve local health care capacity for the most severe cases. A combination of vaccineinduced and natural immunity (stemming from a past COVID-19 diagnosis) contributed to a decline in cases.



Co-Rec’s Role in Keeping Campus Healthy

In preparation for the busier fall semester, membership options at the Cordova Recreational Sports Center returned to prepandemic eligibilities July 1. Open recreation sports such as basketball, volleyball, racquetball, badminton, pickleball and wallyball were back, made available to members without restrictions. In-person group fitness classes also returned with increased participant capacities, although they required reservations.

Co-Rec Swipes





Face masks became optional for anyone while actively exercising in all Purdue University Recreation & Wellness facilities on Nov. 1.

Access to the Co-Rec was limited to students, faculty and staff before the facility reopened to community members Oct. 1.