Studies help Hoosiers better predict what’s to come with COVID-19

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INDIANAPOLIS – We’ve learned 45 percent of Hoosiers with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, meaning they don’t have symptoms. The results come from the first phase of the Fairbanks study conducted by IU and state health officials.

The study is just one of the multiple research efforts happening now that will help us answer our big questions like, what communities are considered hot spots and what can we do to stop the spread?

It’s information that experts believe will help us predict what’s to come.

“These numbers are really the first of their kind, certainly in Indiana and debatably anywhere in the United States,” said Dr. Nir Menachemi, the Chair of Health Policy and Management for IU’s Fairbanks School of Public Health.

Dr. Menachemi is leading testing efforts for the Fairbanks study. His team is trying to understand who is getting sick and why, which will help predict how many people may need to be hospitalized in the future.

“I think our results advance our understanding of things that were unknown,” said Menachemi. “I think the spikes are going to be a function of how well people are going to adhere to the precautions in this new normal. This new normal is not going to go away until we have a vaccine and I think staying closed indefinitely is just not an option.”

Everyday there’s new research and The Polis Center at IUPUI is tracking all of it through this Coronavirus Data Hub. Since launching in March, there are more resources.

“We’ve really tried to expand it quite a bit, we’ve continued to add new functionality to it,” said Marianne Cardwell, the project coordinator.

Cardwell’s team created a map to show the local risk of social isolation in older adults and that urban areas have much higher scores than rural communities. Their data also breaks down food emergency locations.

“It’s really quite impressive when you look at it to see how many locations there are throughout the county where people can find a food pantry or a place for a hot meal,” added Cardwell.

You can also see how the virus impacts race and gender. According to their research, African Americans are 2.4 times more likely to test positive in Indiana. Cardwell hopes this information can help people look at the neighborhoods at risk and find out why.

“I think as we learn how it spreads and who those people are who are most at risk and as we start opening up, we can see how that’s impacted us,” said Cardwell.

It’s too early to tell how re-opening will impact data, but both experts can agree, the fight isn’t over.

“I think we bought some time by hunkering down for the last two months, I think we have slowed the spread of the virus,” said Menachemi. “I don’t think anyone should assume we have won the war against the virus.”

Phase two of the Fairbanks study begins next month and just like the first phase, researchers will randomly select Hoosiers to be tested. If you get a call or text message, they encourage you to participate.

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