MADISON COUNTY, Ind. — At the Madison County Health Department, officials are catching their breath as what’s usually been a constant flow of Hoosiers needing COVID tests is now slowing down.
“Couple of weeks ago, we were still seeing 150-175 people for testing,” said Stephenie Mellinger, “but in the past full week, it’s been more like 25 or 30 per day.”
Mellinger said the sudden steep decline is strange, but is likely due to people wanting rapid tests.
Right now, rapid tests through the state are only administered to those 18 or younger, or 50 and older with symptoms.
“I really think that the influx of rapid test kits and the availability of those, I think that really has been the preferred testing method,” Mellinger said.
It’s something local experts are also noticing too. However, Thomas Duszynski, director of epidemiology education at the Fairbanks School of Public Health, said it could be problematic to some degree.
“That could represent a bit of a problem for us, in terms of public health, because a lot of those obviously don’t get reported,” he said, “and if they are positive, which means we can’t do contact tracing, which means it’s harder for us to get our arms around the virus itself.”
As new variants, like Omicron BA.2 emerge, Duszynski said it could also impact what we know about potentially new variants and their characteristics.
“Some of that testing helps us determine how much of that is here so then we can study that compared to what we’re seeing in hospitals, signs and symptoms or even the effectiveness of vaccines,” he said.
However, the downward trend also brings encouraging news.
“Overall, all of the data points that we’re watching seem to be declining, which is very encouraging,” said Shaun Grannis, vice president for data and analytics at the Regenstrief Institute.
Along with testing, Grannis said they’re also tracking declining hospitalizations and the amount of new cases in the state. While it looks as though Indiana is moving closer to the “other side” of its latest peak, Grannis said it doesn’t mean all is clear.
“The counts of cases, and new cases, are still fairly high, even though it’s declining, they’re still high, and so there’s still a risk for spread here,” he added.
Experts continue to urge the importance of following safety protocols, along with vaccinations, getting properly boosted and getting tested.
If you test at-home, officials still encourage you to get a second opinion as PCR Tests are still available, even though they take a little longer to get results back.
“Perhaps somebody had a positive test or negative test at home and they just want to know for sure, please come on in. We’re happy to do that,” said Mellinger.