Protect Purdue Summary Report
As we look optimistically to a fully in-person residential experience for the Fall 2021 semester, we will rely on the very best science and public health guidance available and build upon lessons learned from our experiences and those of our peers. The ultimate goal is to keep the Purdue community safe while delivering on our teaching, research and engagement missions.
2020 Hindsight: Lessons Learned
The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything this University has ever faced. With rapidly evolving scientific understanding of the coronavirus and the disease it causes, health leaders around the world and at Purdue have had to adapt protocols over the course of the year to maintain operations. In that way, the Protect Purdue effort was admittedly imperfect and, only with the benefit of hindsight, are we able to identify key lessons learned for moving forward in a post-COVID experience.
For example, while the installation of miles of plexiglass barriers in classrooms might have sounded impressive, it appears that investment didn’t translate measurably into lowering chances of viral spread much, if at all, given the ample social distancing and masking measures in place.
Similarly, daily disinfecting of thousands of counters, door handles and surfaces of all kinds may have yielded only limited benefits, now that we know the virus transmits predominately through the air, rather than on surfaces. The time and expense to increase the space between residence hall beds also showed no evidence of reducing roommate-to-roommate spread.
On the other hand, investments in enhancing ventilation systems and air purification proved their worth and should have been even greater.
“With the benefit of data later, we probably could have done a few things differently. But at the time, we thought we had to do everything we could to keep our students safe and yet honor our obligation to them not to interrupt their Purdue Education. As things have gotten so much better, so much safer, they’ve become more complicated — which restrictions to moderate or let go altogether, and what order and on what timing.”
— Mitch Daniels