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Indiana Guard helps test long-term care staff across state

By Staff Sgt. Justin Andras | Indiana National Guard | July 6, 2020

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INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana National Guard helped test more than 47,000 employees at 520 long-term care facilities across the state as part of an Indiana State Department of Health initiative June 10 to 28.

"Testing is a key component in reducing asymptomatic viral spread; that's why our strategy focuses on testing all staff of these facilities," said Dr. Kristina Box, ISDH commissioner. "This is the largest testing operation the state has done during this pandemic."

To determine the most effective way to complete the testing, ISDH asked each facility how many employees they had and whether they were willing to conduct the testing, provided they received the necessary supplies. Otherwise, mobile testing would be provided to them.

"Dr. Box and the governor's wish was to have every long-term care facility employee in the state of Indiana tested for COVID-19 since they are the ones taking care of our high-risk population," said Indiana National Guard Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lewis, senior medic and noncommissioned officer in charge of the central Indiana region.

As the virus has spread throughout Indiana this year, several facilities were exposed to the virus, which resulted in deaths. This initiative aims to prevent further losses in these areas containing high-risk individuals.

"COVID-19 has taken a terrible toll on our most vulnerable residents in our long-term care facilities," said Box. "We know that many of the outbreaks started when a staff member who had no symptoms unknowingly brought the infection into the particular facility."

Fighting the spread of the virus within these communities required converting some of the OptumServe test sites into mobile testing at the facilities. These resources were taken from 11 counties with below-average testing numbers.

Ultimately, about 440 facilities elected to complete their own testing. The remaining sites had Guard medical staff administer testing. Guard members also delivered supplies, set up testing stations, registered facility employees and trained facility nurses to conduct the tests.

"This provides a true picture of COVID in the long-term care facilities," said Lewis. "Being able to get every facility worker tested will go a long way towards helping slow the spread."