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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — From elementary schools to college universities, many schools across Indiana are preparing for another year in the pandemic. But while some schools are still trying to craft their COVID policy, Purdue University is optimistic about the fall semester.

According to the school’s latest numbers, 60-percent of students and 66-percent of staff have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and have willingly reported their status to Purdue. Eric Barker, Dean of the College of Pharmacy, believes the high rate of vaccinations and participation show the students and staff’s commitment to their pledge.

“There’s no question that the faculty and staff and certainly the students at Purdue University have taken very seriously their commitment to what we call Protect Purdue,” Barker explains, “that is our commitment to protect ourselves, protect others, and protect our community.”

Barker says the school has tried to establish a foundation of trust and encouragement on campus, one that would hopefully put a spark in other students and staff members to participate.

“I’m hopeful that our students, faculty and staff are encouraged by each other,” Barker continues, “that half of students and two-thirds of the faculty and staff have taken the vaccine and that would continue to encourage others to get vaccinated.”

One of the most important conversations happening across Indiana and the United States is how to establish a proper vaccination policy, whether it be at work or at school. When it comes to Purdue University, Barker believes the school has struck a balance between encouraging Boilermakers to get vaccinated, while not necessarily mandating them to do so.

Barker explains, “what I think we’ve tried to embrace is the mindset of personal responsibility and personal choice, and I think when you respect individuals in that way, there’s a response that naturally comes and maybe we do build trust in that respect.”

It’s that trust the fuels Barker’s belief that more students and staff will get fully vaccinated and report their status to the school before the fall semester.

But the school is still taking precautions.

“[For] those who are unvaccinated, if there is a high risk exposure, defined as within six feet and more than fifteen minutes without a mask, each and every time you’re exposed to someone who’s positive, there is a 14 day quarantine,” Barker explains.

Barker continues, “[for] those who are vaccinated, again a benefit of vaccination is as long as you are without symptoms, if you’ve had an exposure you can stay out of quarantine and you can continue on with your life, continue going to class and all the other aspects of life.”

With vaccination rates increasing and a quarantine policy as a backup, Barker believes Boilermakers will return to the most normal version of life since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are confident,” Barker explains, “with the vaccination rate where it’s at, where we are in this stage of the pandemic beginning to shift to a more endemic phase of managing this disease medically and clinically, that we remain very, very optimistic that we’ll be pretty close to normal as we head into the fall semester.”