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IU, Purdue on Guard for Virus-Defying Gatherings As Football Kicks Off

(BLOOMINGTON, Ind.) — The mayors of Bloomington and West Lafayette are concerned the start of college football could give coronavirus an opening to spread.

Bloomington’s John Hamilton and West Lafayette’s John Dennis are among a dozen Big Ten mayors who asked the conference this week to stop scheduling games at night, when people are more likely to go out and party, and to give cities as much notice of game times as possible. The Big Ten hasn’t announced game times beyond next week.

Bloomington still caps mass gatherings at 15, and requires masks and social distancing. Hamilton says city and university police will be on “heightened alert” for violations when the Hoosiers host Penn State on Saturday. He says people can’t assume the virus will take the weekend off just because there’s football.

Monroe and Tippecanoe Counties both have positivity rates below 4%, among the best in the state as dozens of counties grapple with a surge that’s seen cases, hospitalizations, deaths and positivity rates all soar. But Monroe County Health Department director Penny Caudill notes the rate is on the rise there too, doubling in the last 11 days. And she points out two of Monroe’s six neighboring counties have positivity rates over 10%. Two of Tippecanoe’s neighbors are in double digits as well.

IU is hosting socially distanced watch parties for students, and conducting prize drawings on the athletic department’s Twitter account. It’s also been selling fans the opportunity to have a cardboard cutout of themselves in Memorial Stadium for $50.

The mayors’ letter to the Big Ten also urges the conference to take local positivity rates into account, and decide in advance a red line that would cause games to be postponed. Hamilton says the Big Ten already has a threshold for cases on teams, but needs to take the broader community into account.

Hamilton says he’s not aware of any response from the Big Ten to Monday’s letter.

IU and Purdue both go on the road next week after opening their seasons at home this weekend. Neither school has night games scheduled so far, but eight of the conference’s 14 teams do. Minnesota and Maryland both open their seasons Saturday night, then face each other in a night game next weekend.

The letter was signed by mayors representing every Big Ten school except Illinois, Nebraska and Rutgers. Lansing, Michigan Mayor Andy Schor added his signature to that of neighboring East Lansing, home to Michigan State.

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