Scientists work at the mAbxience biosimilar monoclonal antibody laboratory plant in Garin, Buenos Aires province, on August 14, 2020, where an experimental coronavirus vaccine will be produced for Latin America. - Argentina will manufacture while Mexico will pack and distribute in Latin America, except of Brazil, the vaccine against COVID-19 developed by the University of Oxford and the AstraZeneca laboratory. (Photo by JUAN MABROMATA / AFP)
(Photo by JUAN MABROMATA/AFP via Getty Images)

Indy to Add Surveillance Testing to Spot Hidden COVID Cases

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Indy is looking to ramp up coronavirus testing to get an early line on hidden
infections.

Marion County is averaging 3.000 COVID tests a day. But health director Virginia Caine points
to a study by IUPUI’s Fairbanks School of Public Health suggesting 90% of people who get the virus don’t have symptoms. Those people don’t realize they have COVID-19, but they’re still carriers and can pass the virus to others who may not be as lucky.

Caine says identifying those patients before they spark outbreaks is critical to pinpointing where the
virus is and slowing its spread. She says the county will work with the Fairbanks School to encourage
people to get tested even if they don’t have reason to suspect they’re positive. Caine says there’ll
probably be a social media campaign, and efforts to partner with businesses, churches, and other
organizations.

IU and Purdue have used surveillance testing to keep a lid on new infections, after testing all
students when they returned to campus in August.

Caine’s also encouraging people without symptoms to get tested if they know they’re going to be in
contact with people over 60 or with underlying conditions. Those groups are at higher risk for more
serious cases of the virus. For people who live with someone in those groups, Caine says getting
tested weekly might be appropriate.

Caine and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett are echoing concerns raised by the Indiana State
Department of Health that people aren’t answering calls from contact tracers trying to follow the path of known infections. Hogsett acknowledges it goes against modern instincts to take phone calls from unknown numbers, but he’s urging people to pick up the phone.

Marion County’s positivity rate has risen from 4.9% a month ago to 7.2%, though the statewide
increase has been even steeper — the county’s rate is now a hair better than the state average. Caine’s renewing pleas to people to obey the county’s mask requirement and observe social distancing, especially with Halloween celebrations approaching. She warns if the rate hits 10%, she’ll retighten business restrictions. The county’s positivity rate hasn’t been that high since May.

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