City officials discussed a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases and virus variants among Purdue students during the final Tippecanoe County Health Department briefing Wednesday.
Variants on campus
Dr. Esteban Ramirez, chief medical officer for Protect Purdue, said he estimates 99% of the variants found at Purdue are coming from students.
The most prevalent variant on campus, according to Ramirez, is the B.1.1.7 variant, commonly known as the U.K. variant.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the B.1.1.7 variant is most prevalent in states like Michigan, Minnesota, California, Florida, Colorado and Massachusetts.
"So we're seeing about 42 B.1.1.7 cases already," Ramirez said. "And that's the one that's most rampant in the United States at this point."
Other variant strains that have been found at Purdue include a couple instances of the California variant, a couple New York variants, one South African variant and the P2 variant, which Ramirez said is similar to the variant first discovered in Brazil.
"All of these particular types of variants we report to the state to make sure they're aware and they report to CDC," Ramirez said. "So we kind of have this really close relationship and communication to make sure we're following the best guidance that's out there for these particular types of variants."
In response to the rise in variants at Purdue, Ramirez said the isolation and quarantine periods for those exposed to variants have been increased to 14 days. This change is based on new literature that suggests the variants may have longer "shedding" periods, he said, meaning people who carry them can transmit the virus for longer periods.
Rise in COVID-19 cases
Dr. Jeremy Adler, the county health officer, said the uptick in cases in Tippecanoe County could potentially be caused by the increase in variants, the after-effects of spring break or "pandemic fatigue" causing people to stop following preventive measures.
"We're seeing increasing percentage of cases in young individuals," Adler said. "About 51% of our county cases are in people ages 29 and younger."
Tippecanoe County sits at a 4.2% positivity rate, an increase from last week's 2.5% positivity.
"It's important that we remain cautious and continue preventive measures to reduce the spread," Adler said. "Although the governor's statewide mask mandate ended yesterday, and COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more available, the pandemic is unfortunately not over — masks remain one of the best ways to prevent disease and save lives."
Adler applauded the city of West Lafayette, Purdue and local businesses for continuing to enforce mask requirements.
Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said Lafayette will follow Gov. Eric Holcomb's guidance and allow individuals to make the decision to wear a mask on their own.
Purdue's vaccination clinic opened on Tuesday at noon and vaccinated 2,186 individuals on its opening day, according to Purdue spokesperson Tim Doty. A total of 14,255 first doses have been scheduled.
Ramirez said the University will wait until a higher threshold of students have been fully vaccinated before Purdue decides to decrease testing among students.
"There are now three safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines available to everyone 16 and older. Please get vaccinated," Adler said. "Vaccination is critical for our community, state and nation to get through this pandemic."