TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - While new coronavirus cases remain steady here in Tippecanoe County, health leaders have concerns for other areas of the country.
Tippecanoe County Health Officer, Dr. Jeremy Adler, said following COVID-19 precautions is more important now than ever. He called what is happening in other parts of the country a "COVID-19 crisis."
He said people need to be wearing face coverings, washing hands, avoiding crowds and social distancing at 6 feet. He added businesses should be creating policies to require employees and customers to wear masks. However, he said business are not required to tell customers if they have had an employee has tested positive.
Dr. Adler is strongly recommending people postpone any trips they have to states facing a coronavirus crisis, that includes places like Florida, Texas and Arizona.
"It's very important for all of us to take the appropriate actions now so that we can keep this curve moving in the right direction, downwards and not going back upwards," he said.
Tippecanoe County currently has 10 deaths and has had 802 reported cases. Dr. James Bien from IU Health Arnett said they have five people confirmed with COVID-19 and 27 are under investigation. Dr. Daniel Wickert from Franciscan Health said they have five people diagnosed, 15 under investigation and one person on a ventilator.
Both city mayors and Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tracy Brown addressed mandatory masks in their respective jurisdictions. This comes after West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis mandated face masks on Monday. It requires people to wear masks in all public businesses and on public transportation.
Commissioner Brown and Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski both emphasized that they support wearing masks. However, there are some issues they have with mandating masks.
"For me personally, it is an issue of enforcement," said Commissioner Brown. "Who do we have enforce that effort? Is that going to fall on the shoulders of law enforcement? Or our health department, which are already taxed beyond belief with just their normal day to day calls?"
"I would much prefer that citizens, if at all possible, until it's not possible, be allowed to make their own decisions and I would like businesses to make their own decisions," said Mayor Roswarski. "I typically think when things are driven by the citizens and private business making those decisions, as opposed to being driven by government, we get long term better outcomes and long term better solutions."
Mayor Dennis said people in West Lafayette were asking him for a mask mandate. And with thousands of Purdue students coming back in a few weeks, he wants consistency between the university and the city.
"One thing no one wants to see, is us going back to a locked down community where businesses are shut and our economy tanks. We could not survive another shutdown," said Mayor Dennis. "So I feel by making this small request, actually a small mandate, of asking that my community wears masks, is a very small sacrifice to make for the greater good of not just West Lafayette, but this community."
Dr. Esteban Ramirez joined the panel on Wednesday representing Purdue and the Protect Purdue Plan. He voiced support for West Lafayette's mandate. He said they have already started testing the students who have returned to Purdue early. He said they have had some positive cases, but couldn't disclose the exact number. He said those students are in isolation. As we've previously reported, Purdue is planning to test all students who are returning to the West Lafayette campus. The university is also requiring masks to be worn in all campus buildings and when social distancing isn't possible.
All three emphasized that they all still have a very close collaborative working relationship, and that they will continue to work towards doing what's best for Greater Lafayette.