Jan. 24 update from the Protect Purdue team
The latest medical evidence continues to suggest that the Omicron variant generally causes less harmful symptoms and cases. According to our Protect Purdue Health Center data, 98% of students and employees infected by COVID-19 since Jan. 1, 2022, have reported experiencing no symptoms or a very mild/mild case, and 2% have reported a moderate case.
In true Boilermaker fashion, our campus community continues to live by and adhere to our Protect Purdue Pledge and protocols, operating as safely, openly and actively as any university in the country while closely monitoring the science and local conditions.
We continue to see no evidence of virus transmission in our classrooms. However, as you know, the highly contagious Omicron variant has driven COVID-19 infections up all across the country and demand for testing has soared. Nationally, testing sites have limited availability and long lines, while at-home rapid tests are often sold out. The health care supply chain has been disrupted by staffing shortages, challenging efforts to effectively test and care for the infected as well as those who are experiencing symptoms or suspect exposure. The positivity rate in Tippecanoe County mirrors the state of Indiana and other Midwestern states: approximately 30%.
Amidst a community of 60,000 individuals where 89% have chosen to be vaccinated, Purdue University is not immune to this situation. Of the unique individuals tested at Purdue since August 1, 2021, 76% have been vaccinated. Omicron has increased positive cases and the demand for both testing and case management has risen significantly. Many of the same challenges affecting employers nationwide, including colleges and universities, affect our employees and operations: infection, exposure, caring for children and loved ones who are sick or quarantining at home, and other unexpected disruptions to otherwise daily life. The many who are able to come to work are often filling in for others who cannot. Uncertainty, stress, frustration and fatigue are common. Everyone, particularly those serving Protect Purdue in our testing sites and call centers, is doing their very best, and we are so thankful for these tireless efforts.
Purdue University remains committed to the safety of our students and employees as well as the continuity of our operations
Our medical experts and advisors are beginning to see a light at the end of this tunnel, as Omicron crests and subsides in other countries and areas of the U.S. In the meantime, we continue to advance and evolve Protect Purdue efforts to keep the campus safe and open this semester. These efforts include:
- Offering vaccines and boosters to the campus community.
- Conducting symptomatic and surveillance testing, and continuing our aggressive track and trace protocols.
- Purchasing large quantities of both N95 and KN95 masks and making them available to students, faculty and staff in high-traffic areas.
- Requiring that masks be worn in all indoor locations, including the Co-Rec.
- Purchasing at-home COVID-19 test kits, which we expect to make available to faculty, staff and students by the end of the month.
- Adding a PUSH mini-clinic at the Co-Rec to treat any student who tests positive for influenza A or B.
- Expanding the physical space of the Co-Rec testing center to allow more room for waiting and social distancing.
- Establishing a new, drive-thru testing location at Purdue West for families and dependents.
- Continuing to update Protect Purdue signage and messaging throughout the campus.
As we have done over the course of the past two years, Purdue continues to monitor the science and local conditions, and adjust our actions accordingly. Following this practice, we are making additional modifications and reiterating some important reminders.
Temporarily shifting from routine surveillance testing to targeted testing
Purdue remains committed to being a safe campus by using contact tracing methods, including contact tracers and data analytics, to monitor our campus facilities, including our classrooms and laboratories. Following the latest guidance of our health care partner, One to One Health, as well as that from the CDC and American College Health Association (ACHA), we are modifying our routine surveillance testing regime.
For the next few weeks, we will specifically target surveillance testing to individuals, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, in identified campus locations where potential spread of infection is possible and case numbers might be growing. This data-driven approach maximizes resources and presents the greatest return in managing the spread of Omicron. We will communicate an update on our approach to surveillance testing in early February.
Our approach to testing symptomatic individuals, regardless of vaccination status, will remain unchanged.
If you receive notification that you have been selected for targeted surveillance testing, whether you are vaccinated or not, realize that notification alone does not necessarily mean that you have been exposed or infected. Rather, selection means that our track and trace protocols suggest that testing is medically warranted to find out and proactively manage any potential spread. Follow the notification’s instructions and schedule an appointment to participate in targeted testing right away, whether you are vaccinated or not.
Get vaccinated, get boosted
Emerging evidence has shown that immunity to COVID-19 wanes over time, particularly against the Omicron variant, but that booster shots provide significant additional protection. Studies released in last week’s CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report note that boosted individuals experience significant added protection against hospitalization, serious illness, and infection from Omicron compared with those who are unvaccinated or are not boosted five months since their second vaccine shot.
We continue to strongly encourage all Boilermakers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and subsequent booster when eligible. Purdue’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic is open 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located on the northwest side of the Co-Rec. Individuals who need a vaccination or booster should schedule an appointment online. Submit proof of your booster here.
Stay away from others if sick
If you are experiencing mild cold-like symptoms (congestion, cough, sore throat, etc.), whether you are vaccinated or not, it is critical that you continue to follow the Protect Purdue Pledge: Stay home and away from others, contact PPHC, and follow additional instructions.
Please note that call volume and caseloads are currently high, so it is possible that you may not immediately reach someone. Please be patient as the team works through the call logs. In the meantime, it is important to physically distance from others, practice self-care, hydrate and rest. Students should follow the instructions outlined in their course syllabus, to include contacting the professor to communicate an anticipated absence. Employees should follow their department’s protocols for contacting a supervisor or department head.
You can find further information on what to do next here:
- What to do if you feel ill or were exposed to COVID-19
- What to expect if you’re in quarantine or isolation
If you are experiencing more pronounced cold or flu-like symptoms (such as a fever of 101 degrees or above, nausea/vomiting, difficulty breathing), stay home and away from others, contact PPHC to be scheduled for testing right away, and follow additional instructions. We also recommend that you notify your primary care provider’s office for further guidance. If you do not have a primary provider, students can call PUSH at 765-494-1700 and employees can call the Center for Healthy Living at 765-494-0111 for a phone or virtual visit. As always, in the case of emergency, dial 911.
Thank you again for your continued efforts to protect yourself, others and the Purdue community.
The Protect Purdue Implementation Team