Tactic testing program to track virus in Marion County launched

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FILE – This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. (NIAID-RML via AP)

 MARION COUNTY, Ind. — Joshua Hoffer is an IU medical student who isn’t ready yet to see patients, but he can still hit the streets of Indianapolis in the fight to find a cure for the coronavirus.

“I got into medicine because I wanted to be able to do things hands-on and be able to interact with my community and be able to do that.”

Hoffer was among the first medical students to walk the neighborhoods of Indianapolis Monday dropping off coronavirus testing kits at the homes of volunteers in the Tracking Asymptomatic COVID-19 Through Indianapolis Communities study.

“We know people can carry the virus without having any symptoms. We call those asymptomatic spreaders,” said Dr. Jim Wood, Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician at Riley Children’s Hospital, “and so we want to know, what is the prevalence or what is the number of people in your community that have the coronavirus without having any symptoms at all? Figuring that out can actually really help us figure out ways to slow down the spread and keep everybody safe.”

Participants were self-chosen through the All IN For Health study by the IU Medical School at Allin4health.info.

“I can’t cure the common cold and I sure can’t cure this, but I can maybe help somebody avoid this,” said Sue Stewart as she sat on her back porch in an interview provided to FOX59 News by the IU Medical School. “It’s a virus. Who knows how its gonna act? How its gonna respond? This could be our plague.”

Teams of students fan out through neighborhoods, contact volunteer participants, and leave test kits at their front doors, waiting for a follow-up phone call to retrieve the sample to be tested at a lab at Purdue University.

The team will follow up with each participant. Those with a negative result will receive a text message while those with a positive result will receive a phone call.

“I think research is the single most important thing that we can do not being in a hospital on the frontlines right now it’s the only way we can gather data and try to guide our policy and try to guide how the world reopens up in the next couple weeks,” said Maddy Vonderohe, one of the IU student volunteers. “It’s been really exciting to see that participants are really willing to help us out and help us gather this research.”

The TACTIC study is different from the statewide at-random study announced last week by the Indiana State Department of Health.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box indicated that tracing the path of coronavirus locally would be up to county health departments in Indiana.

A recommendation by the National Association of County & City Health Officials estimates it would take 300 volunteers fanning out throughout the city to do widespread tracing of the virus in Indianapolis.

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