Indiana News

Indiana health leader trying to get more COVID testing in schools

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Passionate words came Friday afternoon from Indiana’s top health official about COVID-19 and schools.

Parent Delila Carter is uneasy about COVID-19 and schools. One of her children isn’t old enough yet to get the vaccine. “I’m thinking they should offer the virtual back again because it’s dangerous right now. It’s dangerous. It’s just moving fast,” Carter told News 8 on Friday.

Dr. Kristina Box, commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health, said Friday in a news briefing that the state’s trying to get more testing in schools, including offering what’s called BinaxNOW rapid tests. “These rapid tests can quickly assess whether a student’s symptoms are COVID or not. This can help reduce the quarantine and help keep our children in school when they’re healthy enough to be there.”

Another parent, Melissa Thornburgh, told News 8 on Friday, “I should think that would be a very good tool for a school to have, especially such as the problem we’re having right now is a lot of middle school students are coming down with it.”

Thornburgh’s daughter was in self-isolation at home from school Friday. “We did the Binax test and, 15 minutes, she was negative both times, so she’s fine.”

Box said Friday it’s also clear that many schools are not reporting COVID-19 cases to the state as required.

“We do know because we get lots of calls from school nurses, from parents, from other concerned individuals in communities, that there are many students being quarantined sometimes but not positive cases reported. And other times, even individuals that are positive, if they’re asymptomatic, are being allowed to come to school. And those are not being reported to us. So, we are working very closely with our schools when that happens, and reaching out directly to them, and discussing the importance of reporting these cases, so that the appropriate number of students can be quarantined and we can decrease, hopefully, the transmission within the schools.”

Carter agreed with the state health commissioner: “Have to report it. Have to report it, because if they don’t do something about it, our kids are going to be staying at home.”

Box says the way to keep schools open to in-person learning is to get vaccinated and wear a mask. Box also says they sent out a survey Thursday to more than 2,000 schools on whether they were offering testing, and 318 schools responded by the end of the day. Of those, only 38% indicated they were already offering testing and 53% said they’re interested in receiving BionaxNOW cards. The state is working to get those test cards to interested schools as quickly as possible.

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