Indiana distributing COVID-19 rapid tests to colleges before Thanksgiving holiday

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indiana State Department of Health announced on Wednesday it has offered to provide BinaxNOW cards to universities that are not currently screening students before they leave campus. More than a dozen colleges and universities have expressed interest in receiving the COVID-19 rapid tests.

ISDH expects that number to grow and the state will deploy those cards this week.

“Ultimately, this is going to really give the students peace of mind,” said Jennifer Zentz, Director of Strategic Communications for Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI).

ICI is a non-profit that serves all 30 private institutions in the state. Zentz explained institutions were invited to participate in a meeting on Tuesday where ISDH outlined the request and answered questions. Requests for tests needed to be submitted by noon on Wednesday.

ISDH is distributing BinaxNOW test kits to campuses for free, said Zentz. The kits will include everything that is needed: test cards, swabs, reagents, gowns, gloves, and training and information pieces. It is the colleges’ responsibility to report the results of the tests that are administered back to ISDH.

“The more students know, the more students can do to stop that spread,” said Zentz.

Zentz said many of their campuses took up the state’s offer on rapid tests. ICI helped distribute kits to campuses on Wednesday evening.

“Several of our campuses are even starting to send students home by the end of the week,” she said.

Zentz believes it is safe to say tens of thousands of tests will be distributed. Although, some campuses had already planned for exit testing as part of their end of semester plans.

 Dr. Kristina Box, Indiana’s State Health Commissioner, encouraged college students to behave as if they have COVID or have been exposed. She suggested they plan to spend 14 days in quarantine, even in their own home. She strongly encouraged students to not see elderly relatives until they have completed that 14-day period without any symptoms.

“We know these rapid tests are just a snapshot in time so we want to remind the students that if they were recently exposed that they could test negative but just be too early to be showing up positive,” said Dr. Box.

Health officials hope this is another step to prevent the spread of COVID-19. ICI said some institutions may have the ability to allow students to stay on campus to quarantine or isolate if students do test positive. In some cases, a student may still choose to go home, but they will know they should self-isolate.

“Testing before going home for the holiday break may help students make better decisions about how they behave once they do return home,” said Zentz.

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