Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski and county commissioner Tracy Brown said they do not plan to mandate the use of masks in their respective jurisdictions, after West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis' decision Monday to require the use of masks in certain circumstances.
In Wednesday's Tippecanoe County Health Department press conference, Brown said the decision to not mandate masks in Tippecanoe County does not mean he doesn't support the use of masks. He said it is rather “an issue of enforcement,” saying he did not know who to task with enforcing this kind of regulation.
Brown would “rather people (wear masks) now of their own free will, their own choice.”
Roswarski echoed this sentiment, saying he prefers citizens and businesses make their own decisions when at all possible. He said he finds that people operating under their own free will provides for better long-term outcomes.
“I will not use Lafayette police to enforce the mask policy,” Roswarski said, noting its officers have larger responsibilities than to regulate mask use. He also said having LPD enforce masks would put officers in difficult situations due to various exceptions.
Dennis said asking the community to wear masks is a “very small sacrifice to make,” not just for the town in general, but for the greater good.
Dr. Esteban Ramirez, chief medical officer at the Protect Purdue Health Center, also addressed the new mask mandate.
“Purdue is very happy with West Lafayette mandating masks,” he said. “Students are going to feel supported.”
Ramirez said the mandate will provide students with a feeling of consistency on campus and in the surrounding area, and it will show them that people other than University affiliates care about their health and safety.
Public Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler addressed the county’s current statistics on COVID-19 cases, recoveries and deaths.
The county reportedly has 802 confirmed cases as of this week, with 497 of these resulting in recoveries, 10 total deaths and 295 active cases. Adler said 68 new cases have been reported in the past week.
Adler said the county has administered 14,887 total tests with a 5.4% positivity rate, and 1,303 tests in the last week with a 5.2% positivity rate. This rate is lower than the current rates of both Indiana and the U.S., which he reported as 9.1% and 9.7%, respectively.
In the Q&A section of the conference, officials discussed topics like virus clusters, businesses' transparency with the virus, the state reopening and public schools.
Adler said while there is no requirement for businesses to alert the public to the presence of positive cases among their employees, it is “certainly recommended” that they do so.
The health officer also clarified what constitutes a "cluster" of cases, which is characterized as five or more linked cases within a particular location. He said if a cluster is identified, steps are taken to educate individuals at the location of proper precautions, how to monitor for symptoms and to quarantine individuals who may have been exposed to the virus.
The health department met with Tippecanoe school officials to discuss the re-opening of their campuses for the fall, Adler said. He said the department provided recommendations based upon guidance from the Indiana Department of Education and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s a question for schools to answer and determine,” he said.
Adler ended the meeting by suggesting that individuals planning to travel consider postponing their trips, saying now is not a good time to visit other places with high rates of the virus.