7/31/20 Adler press conference

Tippecanoe County health officer Jeremy Adler, right, speaks during the county's health department press conference Wednesday. Chief Medical Officer at the Protect Purdue Health Center Esteban Ramirez began attending the conferences earlier in July.

Officials in the Tippecanoe County Health Department told The Exponent they were no longer allowed to comment on the case counts at Purdue, days after both explained they had noticed a discrepancy in the number of positive test results between Purdue Athletics' reporting and information the health department had received from the Indiana State Department of Health.

"We're not allowed to comment on Purdue, period," health department administrator Khala Hochstedler said when asked on Friday to further discuss the discrepancy.

When Purdue Athletics announced 27 total cases on July 24, it blindsided health department officials Hochstedler and Amanda Balser, executive administrative assistant, who observed only a handful of positive cases filtering down to the county level from ISDH's centralized reporting system.

On Wednesday The Exponent published a story detailing how somewhere between Purdue Athletics reporting numbers to ISDH and the state department of health's distributing those numbers to the county health department, positive test results were missed.

The health department resolved the discrepancy only after requesting test data directly from Purdue following the athletic department's announcement.

The latest discrepancy arose when Purdue Athletics reported 35 total cases within the department in a weekly update Friday.

This differs from expected numbers, after the athletic department announced 27 total cases on July 24 and the health department confirmed on Wednesday it had seen nine additional students test positive this week. The sum on Friday, by the health department's measure, would be at least 36 cases.

Associate Athletics Director Kassidie Blackstock said on Thursday that the athletics department has sent all positive test results to the ISDH via fax within six hours of confirming them. Blackstock also said that not "all positive test results were reportable in Tippecanoe County," though she declined to comment further when asked to elaborate.

When The Exponent contacted Hochstedler and Balser on Friday to review the updated number of positive cases among Purdue student-athletes, they declined to comment because of a directive to relay media requests to Purdue's communication department, specifically Purdue spokesperson Tim Doty.

County health officer Jeremy Adler, who is publicly at the forefront of the health department's response to the coronavirus, directed Hochstedler and Balser to refer media requests to Purdue officials. Both added that they directly report to Adler within the health department.

"Questions regarding Purdue COVID-19 tests and data should be directed to Tim Doty at Purdue," Adler said in an email Friday afternoon when asked to comment on his directive to health department officials.

Jim Bush, who's filling in for Doty while he's on vacation this week, also said in an email that questions from the media should be directed to Doty. The Exponent confirmed in a phone call to Doty made Friday that he spent the week on vacation and is unable to comment.

Hochstedler confirmed again in a later call that the health department would no longer be commenting on Purdue-related inquiries.

"You'll have to contact Purdue media for that information, too," she said.

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