Private labs help Indiana long term care facilities expand testing

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Long term care facilities across Indiana are reaching out to private labs so they can test more residents and staff.

At least 260 residents of long-term care facilities have died of COVID-19 in Indiana. More than 1,400 residents have tested positive.

The state plans to provide weekly updates on COVID-19 in long term care facilities every Monday on their website.

“Testing is one of the keys to the present and the future with respect to containing the virus,” said Zach Cattell, president of Indiana Health Care Association

IHCA is a trade association and advocate representing skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities, and independent living.

Cattell said many providers are looking at private labs to expand testing.

“We can’t simply rely on the capacity that the state health department has, and we appreciate what they have been able to do but we have to have those private lab resources going forward,” he said.

Otterbein Franklin SeniorLife Community is testing every resident and caregiver now. The facility hopes it will enable them to take immediate steps to better manage the spread of the virus.

12 Otterbein Franklin residents have passed with COVID-19 as a contributing factor, as of Tuesday.

They have tested 342 more residents and caregivers in the last few days and have another 80 residents scheduled to be tested.

So far, they have discovered 12 new positive cases which include five residents and seven caregivers. 254 cases were negative.

“Nearly all of the newly identified cases were not displaying symptoms, and we believe this early discovery, combined with Otterbein’s aggressive safety protocols, will significantly reduce the risk of spread.,” said Rob Newcomer, Executive Director of Otterbein Franklin SeniorLife Community.

Patients Choice Laboratories on Indianapolis’ northwest side is providing tests. The company says it processes about 200 COVID-19 tests a day from long term care facilities. Results come back within 24 hours.

“To the ends of the earth they go to protect their residents has been inspiring,” said Brad Moss, president of Patients Choice Laboratories.

IHCA explains some providers are finding several negative results as well.

It’s this extra testing that some believe will help facilities segment their residents.

“If you don’t show signs or symptom, you won’t know unless you do testing,” said Cattell.

Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, also feels strongly about testing residents and staff. The county has had its own recovery response team for at least two weeks.

The team goes into long term care facilities and provides additional testing for staff and residents. Dr. Caine said they test individuals who are symptomatic and asymptomatic.

“We now realize there is a significant number of patients who have no symptoms whatsoever, but they could spread the disease,” she said.

ISDH nurse surveyors have visited every long-term care and freestanding facility in the state to provide guidance about how to handle COVID-19 patients in their facilities, including testing.

The State Department of Health’s 11 regional strike teams travel to long-term care facilities to help with testing of residents if needed and educate facilities about infection control practices and isolation. These teams work with the facility to determine who should be tested.

On Wednesday, state health officials said testing asymptomatic patients does not always provide a clear indication of the number of infections or whether a person will be positive the next day because the tests are not as sensitive in some populations. That’s why the focus is on educating facilities, reducing exposure risk, and monitoring for symptoms so that appropriate actions can be taken.

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