Indiana health officials work to help more schools with COVID-19 testing


INDIANAPOLIS — As coronavirus cases continue to climb among Indiana students, state health officials are working to expand testing in schools.

This comes as Indiana sees the highest number of COVID-19 cases reported among students in a single week, according to data from the Indiana State Department of Health.

Dozens of cars lined up in Lawrence Township Monday for COVID-19 vaccinations and testing. But instead of using a pharmacy or medical facility, the clinic is being run at the school administration building.

“I’ve been wanting to get it for a while, but we just haven’t had time,” said Nathalia Tinajero, a Lawrence North High School student who received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s magnificent,” said Matthew Bates, an Indianapolis resident getting tested. “It is a long line, but they’ve got the people to do it.”

The clinic, which runs from noon to 8 p.m. through Wednesday, is run by the Indiana State Department of Health, which is offering help with testing on school grounds.

Some other school districts are offering on-site testing every day for students and staff.

One of those is Mount Vernon, which hired an extra nurse to help, according to superintendent Jack Parker.

“For us, it’s simple. It’s all about returning kids to in-person learning as quickly as we possibly can,” Parker said.

ISDH estimates about 10% of schools statewide are offering testing, state health commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said at a briefing Friday. Dr. Box added that state officials are reopening a survey recently sent to schools to give them another opportunity to express interest in getting the state’s help with testing.

“These rapid tests can quickly assess whether a student’s symptoms are COVID or not, and this can help reduce the quarantine and keep our children in school when they’re healthy enough to be there,” she said.

At Mount Vernon, students who get a negative COVID test on the eighth day of quarantine can immediately return to school and don’t have to stay home for a full two weeks, Parker said.

Demand for on-site testing has increased dramatically, Parker added. His nurses have run twice the number of COVID tests in the past three weeks compared to the last two months of the previous school year.

“If it’s a lot of extra effort, it’s worth it because we really want our kids back to school as quickly as we can,” Parker said. “So that’s why we started doing it last school year.”

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