Purdue will resume in-person classes Tuesday in a county the Indiana State Department of Health newly designated as experiencing "very high" COVID-19 positivity rates and community spread, which will limit indoor and outdoor social gatherings to 25 people.
Attendance of classes and academic activities, however, will not be limited to 25 students, according to a Protect Purdue news release Friday. Meetings held by student organizations and departmental meetings must adhere to the 25-person limit.
As long as mitigation measures such as physical distancing and a requirement for face coverings are in place, Tippecanoe County Health Officer Jeremy Adler said classrooms used for "instructional purposes are not considered social gatherings so the 25-person limit does not apply."
Purdue on Friday canceled all university-sponsored on-campus convocations and conferences for spring 2021 "to prioritize space for learning and discovery activities," updated event guidelines show.
"The University urges all colleges, divisions, schools, departments and other organizational units to delay or cancel any event that includes attendance of people outside of the Purdue campus community through the spring 2021 semester," the update states.
Student organizations can host only on-campus events this spring. To host events with fewer than 25 attendees, groups must develop a plan to ensure the Protect Purdue Pledge is maintained and submit it to the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Life to be approved.
No exceptions to the 25-person threshold will be made for social events on campus, Purdue spokesperson Tim Doty said.
Off-campus events sponsored by the University must earn the approval of the Office of the Provost if they include 25 or more people, the news release states. Requests to host off-campus events that exceed the capacity limit must be submitted for approval two weeks prior to the event.
Organizations that plan off-campus events must themselves ensure that safety precautions are required in terms and conditions to which each attendee must agree. Groups must also register guests through a single system so that names and contact information are readily available for contact-tracing efforts.
The ISDH on Wednesday designated Tippecanoe County "red," the state's most severe classification used to denote a seven-day positivity rate of at least 15% among coronavirus tests and at least 200 new weekly COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. Of Indiana's 92 counties, 73 are designated red, according to the state's data dashboard.
Tippecanoe County recorded 634 cases per 100,000 residents and a 16.32% average positivity rate in this week's update of the color-coded metrics. A county must lower these two metrics below the thresholds for each color category — blue, yellow, red and orange, in order of severity — for two straight weeks to ease the strength of restrictions.
The number of cases of COVID-19 and deaths caused by the virus have surged in the past 30 days. Half of the 118 total deaths due to the coronavirus in Tippecanoe County since March were recorded in the last 30 days, the dashboard shows.
The county's rate of COVID-19 spread is expected to decrease and return its designation to orange within the next couple of weeks, Health Department Administrator Khala Hochstedler said. That change would raise the cap on social gatherings to 50 people.