WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Purdue University is continuing to bolster its fall reopening plan and is also touting high vaccination rates among students and staff.
Officials say that's a good sign after Purdue recently announced plans to return to normal operations this fall.
"It's quite different. When I came, we had mask mandates ... we had to maintain social distancing," says Kalp Shaw, a graduate student at Purdue.
Shaw, who is studying business, started his master's degree in the spring and is looking forward to a more traditional semester.
"The college experience, the business school experience," he says. "The whole point of business school is to socialize, make networks, so I'm glad to see that finally happening."
The numbers seem promising: 60% of students and 66% of staff are fully vaccinated.
"I think everybody at Purdue is encouraged by these initial numbers," says Purdue College of Pharmacy Dean Eric Barker, also chair of the Protect Purdue team of medical experts.
"We know that's our starting point," he says. "We know that there are many more faculty, staff and students that have yet to upload their information and we expect those numbers to continue to go up."
He's talking about Purdue's recently launched portal where students and staff can upload their proof of vaccination.
"So far, so good," he says. "A few hiccups as is always the case when a new system rolls out."
Purdue is returning to full density on campus and at athletic events and lifting most of its mask mandates. Still on the table: masks in classrooms, labs and lecture halls.
"I think it's a combination of vaccinations, number of cases and severity of cases as we approach that beginning date for classes that will help us make some decisions about what we should be doing in our instructional spaces," Barker says.
Shaw says he'd like the decision left up to individuals.
"That would ideally be my choice, leaving it to personal discretion rather than any mandates of removing it or not removing it," he says.
Purdue next week will announce the winners of the "Old Gold-en Ticket" — one year of free tuition for ten randomly selected students who got the vaccine.