Purdue to relax mask protocols in classrooms, research spaces starting March 14

With campus COVID-19 cases continuing to decline, effective Monday, March 14, Purdue University will further relax indoor mask requirements, making masks optional in classrooms and research spaces on the West Lafayette campus. Masks will continue to be required in healthcare settings and where contractually required. 

The university decision was made with the full consideration and support of the Protect Purdue Medical Advisory Team. The governor’s emergency health order also expired last Friday, March 4.

Over the last two years, the Purdue campus community has demonstrated such care and commitment in adhering to the Protect Purdue Pledge and its three critical components towards helping to stop the spread of COVID-19: protect myself, protect others, and protect the campus community. As the COVID-19 virus has evolved throughout the pandemic, so have our responses and protocols in accordance to medical and CDC guidelines.

Two-way masking – when all individuals are wearing a mask – has been deemed necessary and reinforced on campus for the better part of two years now. However, based on current CDC guidance, campus and county data, and a growing group of innovative and widely available defenses against both serious illness and spread, two-way masking indoors at Purdue University is no longer considered medically necessary or supported as it has been to this point in the pandemic. The campus community is now 90% vaccinated and, according to our medical team, our overall immunity is in excess of 92%. According to Protect Purdue Health Center data, since Jan. 1, more than 99% of positive cases at Purdue have been reported as asymptomatic, mild or moderate, with zero hospitalizations. We have now reached less than 100 cases per 100,000 individuals, and the Purdue community has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to staying home when sick and/or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. 

Being up to date with recommended COVID-19 vaccinations continues to be the most effective preventative measure against COVID-19. Vaccines and boosters will continue to be available at no cost at Purdue’s campus vaccine clinic. At-home tests are now in ample supply nationwide. In addition, one-way masking has been proven effective in protecting an individual who correctly wears a high-quality mask. Moving forward, Purdue students, faculty, staff, and visitors may choose to further-protect themselves by continuing to wear a high-quality mask at any time and their decision to do so should be respected by all. We will continue to provide free access to high-quality masks (N95 or KN95) throughout campus. 

At Purdue University, we remain committed to protecting others and our campus community as well. If you are sick or experiencing symptoms, continue to stay home, away from others, and arrange to get tested. Masks also continue to be a required part of the quarantine process should you become infected or exposed to COVID-19. Out of respect for the health, safety, comfort, and privacy of others, if someone asks you to wear a mask – in a classroom setting or otherwise – please do so. Instructors may request, but not require, masks to be worn in a classroom. Instructors may not reward or penalize students for their decisions about mask wearing and courses are expected to continue to be taught in the modality listed in the official schedule of classes at the beginning of the term. Any instructor with specific medical challenges that might require a shift in modality or other classroom accommodation should contact their department head who may seek support and guidance from the Provost’s office and their dean’s office.

Purdue will continue to conduct routine surveillance testing at least through March, including two weeks of testing after Purdue’s Spring Break. Employee surveillance testing will also continue during this time and during Purdue’s Spring Break. Beyond, we will preserve the ability to specifically target surveillance testing to individuals and groups, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, in identified campus locations where potential spread of infection is possible and case numbers might be growing.

We will also implement wastewater surveillance testing for COVID-19 in the coming weeks to add an additional layer of active monitoring.

With Purdue’s Spring Break approaching, we understand more people will be traveling this year. However, national case rates suggest that most destinations outside of Indiana do not pose a higher risk than the local area. After traveling, all students and employees are encouraged to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and get tested if symptoms develop. Symptomatic testing will continue to be offered at the PPHC through the end of the semester. 

The Protect Purdue Medical Advisory Team and the Protect Purdue Implementation Team continue to be guided by the latest science and medical experts, and all rules and regulations will be subject to change. If a surge or change in case severity occurs, the masking policy and other protocols could be adjusted. 

Thank you again for your continued efforts to protect yourself, others and the Purdue community.

Dr. Eric Barker

Dean, College of Pharmacy and Protect Purdue Implementation Team Leader

Dr. Esteban Ramirez

Chief Medical Officer, Protect Purdue Health Center