Protect Purdue for Fall 2021

Since its inception, the Protect Purdue initiative has been based on the premise of personal responsibility. As Boilermakers, each of us has been responsible for protecting ourselves, others (especially the most vulnerable), and our Purdue community. We have done this through consistent and nearly universal compliance with the Protect Purdue Pledge and measures including masking, de-densification, social distancing, testing, contact tracing, and now, the option to be vaccinated.

In doing so, our efforts have enabled us to achieve several important goals:

We have protected the most vulnerable from serious disease. Of the ~6,200 positive cases on campus from August 2020 – May 2021, only 0.45% (28 cases) were severe. This represents 0.056% of our entire campus population. With the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccinations, the most vulnerable can now choose to be vaccinated, reducing the risk of severe disease even further. Our partnership with Franciscan Health has made COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatments available to the campus population, also reducing the risk of serious disease. 

We have protected our local health care systems from being overwhelmed with cases. Efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 early in the pandemic were aimed to “flatten the curve” to preserve local health care capacity for the most severe cases. The combination of vaccine-induced and natural immunity (stemming from a past COVID-19 diagnosis) has contributed to a decline in cases. During the entire 2020-2021 academic year, Purdue contributed only 14 hospitalized cases to the county’s overall hospitalized population. Now, for those who choose to be vaccinated, emerging data indicate that they are much less likely to become infected or get sick if exposed, further protecting local health care capacity.

We have protected Purdue from having to pause or suspend residential education. One of the first universities to commit to reopening in 2020, Purdue operated on the premise that having as many students safely on campus as possible was critical to delivering the full Boilermaker educational experience. Through collective commitment, Purdue remained open and in-session for all who chose to be here on campus.

Now that safe, effective vaccines are widely available via Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), each individual has the opportunity to make an additional decision about their own health and risk tolerance relative to COVID-19 in a fundamentally different way than one year ago. Meanwhile, Purdue remains responsible and focused on protecting our campus community against threats that would require the suspension of residential operations, to the detriment of all.

As of now, we intend to open campus normally in the fall, recognizing the continuing uncertainties of the virus may require some modifications. This means re-densifying our spaces, returning our athletics venues to full occupancy levels, hosting a variety of student and community events, welcoming back alumni and visitors, significantly reducing the number of University-provided isolation/quarantine spaces needed, and reinstating pre-pandemic academic attendance policies. Purdue has been as open, densely populated, and delivered as much or more in-person instruction as any school its size while taking measured and necessary steps to protect its campus community. The consistent and nearly universal embrace of the Protect Purdue Pledge by our students, faculty and staff has been vital to the safety of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the ways to protect Purdue continue to evolve throughout the summer, similar commitment and concern for our overall learning community will be necessary to realize this normalcy in the weeks and months to come.

As we make and communicate decisions for the fall, like we did last year, our policies will be based on the latest scientific information and our duty to mitigate risk to a manageable level of infection within the campus community to avoid having to suspend our operations and interrupt our students’ education. With the vast majority of campus cases to date being mild or very mild, our anticipated shift in mindset from pandemic control to endemic medical management of cases is justified. Endemic diseases are those where infection spread is under control and cases are maintained at a baseline level being managed with treatments, identification procedures and vaccines.

Vaccination

Science shows us that a high vaccination rate is our surest way to mitigate the spread of the virus and variants within our campus community, achieve and sustain a low case number, and allow for a full return to normalcy. We will continue to encourage and emphasize the importance of vaccination for all who are medically able, including those who have previously tested positive for COVID-19, to protect themselves from risk of serious illness (no matter how low that risk is for some of our respective age groups), and to protect others and our Purdue community. Nevertheless, our commitment to personal choice remains: Individuals may choose to Protect Purdue either by getting vaccinated and submitting valid proof by Aug. 13 or participating in routine surveillance testing, which could be as frequently as weekly, and contact tracing beginning Aug. 23

Density

For now, we anticipate all campus spaces will return to full density this fall.

Quarantine and isolation

During the past year, the University has set aside and provided roughly 1,000 beds for use by those in quarantine and isolation, as well as provided additional services and care at no cost for those using that space, such as meals, medical monitoring and transportation.

Beginning in July, significantly fewer beds will be reserved for this purpose as vaccinated individuals are not required to quarantine if exposed to an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, provided that vaccinated individual is not symptomatic.

Since on-campus accommodations will be fewer in general and may not be available at any given time, all Boilermakers must have a personal plan for proper isolation or quarantine should it be necessary, particularly unvaccinated individuals should they be exposed to an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 or test positive themselves.

Class attendance and academic policies

For now, we anticipate that virtually all academic and classroom policies will return to pre-COVID-19 standards for the fall semester, including regulations on class attendance. Per our pre-COVID policy, students will be expected to attend class and inform the instructor if absent due to illness. Instructors should try to accommodate students by excusing the student or allowing the student to make up work, when possible. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 are not guaranteed remote access to all course activities, materials, and assignments or support from academic case managers.

Face masks

We intend to start classes in the fall with little or no use of face masks. We will make and communicate a final decision on masking in classrooms and instructional spaces closer to the start of the semester. Key factors in that decision will include the percentage of the campus population that has been vaccinated, the number and severity of local and campus cases, and the latest scientific information relative to variants and the risk they pose, particularly to unique environments like ours that are densely populated and involve many individuals congregating together indoors for prolonged periods of time.

Other guidelines and things to know

Personal health screening (including staying home when sick) continues to be encouraged to maintain a healthy campus. The Protect Purdue Health Center will continue to provide services such as diagnosis and treatment as well as vaccination for flu (which is strongly recommended for fall) and COVID-19.

You can read the latest guidelines on topics such as campus events, visitors and travel on the Protect Purdue website.

Looking ahead

These principles and guidelines reflect our current thinking relative to the fall.

We will discuss these protocols frequently in the weeks to come. Factors such as increased vaccination rates, new and emerging virus variants, campus and local positivity rates, case severity, and continued guidance from scientific and medical authorities may mean we can stay the course with this approach toward greater normalcy, or conversely, we may have to again enact stricter measures.

As long as the continuity of campus operations is not in danger, however, our rules will be the same for everyone who lives up to the Protect Purdue Pledge.

Thank you for doing your part by continuing to take personal responsibility for protecting yourself, others and our Purdue community.

Boiler Up!