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Demand grows in Indiana for COVID-19 testing; rapid tests in short supply

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — COVID-19 test sites across the state are filling open appointment times fast and forcing some Hoosiers to travel some distance if they need immediate results.

Health officials are asking people to be patient and not go to hospitals to get tests. Indiana on Wednesday reported its highest number of hospitalizations for COVID, more than 2,000, a 30% jump in just a week.

Also on Wednesday, Indiana reported 5,000 new COVID-19 cases, the most in a single day since January.

Romell Cervantes lives in Tippecanoe County, about 30 miles northwest of Indianapolis on I-65. She’s struggled to find any immediate-test appointments. She said she feels like Indiana is going back in time.

“If they make this decision about opening and having the kids going back to school, they should be ready to test them because, like right here in Tippecanoe School Corp., they have like over 500 kids in quarantine,” Cervantes said.

She said she called the state for help and was directed to places where she needed a referral to get a COVID-19 test. Her problem isn’t unique to her community; both Marion and Hamilton counties’ leaders say they are scrambling to keep up with the demand for COVID-19 tests.

Dr. Virginia Caine, leader of the Marion County Public Health Department, said Wednesday, “We’re having a little, what do I want to say, complexities about our testing, and so we’re trying to work with our vendors to increase the amount of runs that they do.”

Caine also said results are also taking a little longer to get, somewhere from three to five business days.

Christian Walker, emergency preparedness coordinator with the Hamilton County Health Department, also sees the growing demand for COVID-19 tests. “We are going to have to figure out something. We are working at hiring more people, providing more hours, possibly putting out more sites as well.”

Hamilton County has also experienced the lag in finding out test results, but Walker said they’re also limiting the use of rapid tests. “The tests are in short supply so we really need to save them for those that we think may truly have COVID so we can get them out of COVID as fast as possible.”

Both Caine and Walker said a lot of what happens next with testing will ultimately be up to state officials.

News 8 reached out Wednesday to the Indiana State Department of Health to see if there are any plans to open more testing sites because of the surge. The department did not respond by Wednesday night.