Indiana’s expanded coronavirus testing program is set to start Wednesday at 20 sites around the state, although those tests still won’t be available to everybody.
That additional testing comes as Indiana’s number of confirmed or probable coronavirus-related deaths has jumped to over 1,300 after state health officials added 62 fatalities to that toll on Tuesday.
The new testing sites are opening under a nearly $18 million state contract announced last week with OptumServe Health Services, with 30 more sites expected to open next week.
The program aims to test 100,000 people in the first month — largely limited to those who have COVID-19 symptoms or are in close contact with someone ill with the disease. That would nearly double the number of test results reported to the state health department since early March but would still be far below the minimum of 20,000 daily tests that the chairman of drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co. said should be conducted in Indiana.
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Dr. Lindsay Weaver, the state health department’s chief medical officer, said the new testing program was a start while officials worked with Lilly and others to get more laboratories available in the state for analyzing tests.
“We’re pretty confident with what we’ve set forward at this point that we really can test the vast majority of people in the state of Indiana if they are symptomatic or if they’re in close contact in close contact with somebody who has COVID-19,” Weaver said.
Dave Ricks, who is also chief executive officer of Indianapolis-based Lilly, urged in an Indianapolis Star column that the state be cautious in following Gov. Eric Holcomb’s plan for lifting nearly all state restrictions by July 4
“We must substantially increase Indiana’s capacity to test for the virus and trace contacts of infected individuals — from between 2,000 to 3,000 tests per day now to 20,000 to 30,000 a day, to effectively isolate potential clusters and rule out COVID infections when someone has symptoms,” Ricks wrote.
State officials also have hired a contractor that in the coming weeks will take over statewide contact tracing, the process of notifying people who've possibly been exposed to coronavirus infections.
A state health department webpage now lists the OptumServe testing sites and about 80 other locations where tests are available. Registration for the OptumServe testing can be done online at https://lhi.care/covidtesting.
1,000 APRIL DEATHS
The new state statistics show that at least 1,004 people died during April with COVID-19 infections — an average of nearly 33.5 people a day. That one-month death toll far exceeds Indiana’s average of about 150 flu deaths over a seven-month period in recent years.
A new order from Holcomb that took effect Monday eased many business and travel restrictions for most of Indiana as a top state health official said coronavirus cases had reached a “level plateau.”
The state health department has recorded 1,213 deaths with confirmed coronavirus infections and 113 presumed deaths of people with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus. Those are deaths that state officials said doctors blame on coronavirus infections without confirmation of the illness from test results.