The day Purdue’s seven-day positivity rate peaked to an all-time high — 6.87% — for the seventh day in a row, the University announced it will pause surveillance testing until January.
This pause will likely lead to an increase between 2-4% in the University and Tippecanoe County’s positivity rates because Purdue will conduct 5,000 fewer tests weekly, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Esteban Ramirez warned.
“I’m afraid that some folks will take that as a new surge,” he said Thursday afternoon.
The plan to pause surveillance testing, which has aimed to test roughly 10% of campus or 5,000. people each week this semester, comes as the University anticipates many more students and employees to be tested before leaving campus for Thanksgiving break, Ramirez said.
Students will still be able to request tests at the Turf Recreation Exercise Center, or be tested after notification from the Protect Purdue Health Center.
Ramirez emphasized that the PPHC offers “point-of-care” testing, which take about two days to yield results. This means negative test results should not be misconstrued as a clean bill of health for students tested days or weeks before they travel home.
“We don’t want people tested a week ahead of time if possible,” he said. “We recommend, test at home if you can,” but if students can’t, scheduled testing is available on campus.
While discontinuing surveillance testing means weakening the University’s gauge of the spread of COVID-19 on campus, Ramirez said, administrators think it is worthwhile to pivot toward preparing for the influx of students who will be tested in the coming weeks.
Much of the recent spike in cases now comes not from campus spread, which Ramirez said Purdue has seen none of, but from casual gatherings. Contact tracers have reported weddings, family reunions and birthday parties as some of the recent culprits of continually rising case numbers.
Tippecanoe County reported a record-high 208 new cases of the coronavirus today, and its hospitals have begun to fill rapidly, according to the Indiana State Department of Health dashboard. The county also reported its 23rd death.
The county’s alarming peaks coincides with more than 6,600 new COVID-19 cases across Indiana attributed to Wednesday, smashing Tuesday’s record by more than 1,500 cases.
Is it possible that a rise in virus spread would cause the University to bring back surveillance testing earlier than January, or shift classes to online before Thanksgiving break begins?
“Everything’s kinda on the table, right,” Ramirez said, echoing the sentiment of Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler is past months. “Yeah, it’s always possible — but a lot of things would have” to happen, first.