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New Indiana testing partnership to estimate true scope of COVID-19 using antibody tests

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INDIANA (WPTA21) - The Indiana State Department of Health has partnered with IU Fairbanks School of Public health to get a better understanding of how widespread COVID-19 is and has been in the Hoosier state.

This data will help inform state leaders in the decision to open up the economy again.

So far, doctors and other health care providers have ordered COVID-19 tests to understand on a clinical level if the patient is positive or not.

These molecular tests have typically only been ordered for symptomatic essential workers or those who are at-risk.

One caveat with this way of testing is that we have no way of knowing the true scope of the virus because we're only testing those who are showing symptoms.

This new antibody test hopes to scientifically and proportionally show how many Hoosiers were affected by the virus at any point, regardless of whether or not they showed symptoms.

The antibody test hopes to get a community understanding of the prevalence of COVID-19 in Indiana.

“This is a critical step toward understanding how COVID-19 has affected the population of Indiana,” said Nir Menachemi, professor and Fairbanks Endowed Chair in the Fairbanks School of Public Health and principal investigator on the study.

“Our results will contribute valuable information to the complex considerations necessary for relaxing the stay-at-home order and other social-distancing policies."

Scientists have already started to call selected Hoosiers and ask them to participate in the study.

Those who are selected to take part will be over the age of 12, and will be given a nasal swab and a blood draw to test for antibodies.

There will be several waves of testing, with around 5,000 to 7,000 people to be tested in each wave.

The first round of testing will begin this weekend with a pool of at least 5,000 Hoosiers randomly selected from across Indiana’s 10 emergency preparedness districts.

Indiana University Health and Eli Lilly and Co. will process nasal samples and report them back to ISDH. Participants can choose the method by which they receive their results when they register. 

Additional phases of testing will take place in late May, in October 2020 and in April 2021.

Only those who are chosen can be tested this way.

Participants will be notified of their eligibility for the study by mail, text message, email or phone and will be directed to the testing site closest to their residence. Registrants will receive a unique code that they will show at the testing site as proof of participation.

Testing will be done at eight fixed drive-through sites and ten mobile sites.

Coronavirus resources

  • Click here for the latest CDC novel coronavirus resources and links.
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  • You can view the latest Indiana COVID-19 numbers here.
  • Track Ohio's coronavirus numbers here.
  • Need to get tested? Click here to find a testing site near you.
  • Check out or COVID-19 vaccine resource page here.
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Kayla Crandall

Kayla Crandall is an Emmy award-winning journalist. She serves as the Social Media and Digital Content Manager at WPTA. Follow her on Twitter @KaylerJayne.

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