Rapid COVID-19 testing curtailed in some state and local sites

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Citing high demand and short supply, Indiana is reducing COVID-19 rapid testing at state and local health department sites effective immediately.

The change does not affect the Vanderburgh County Health Department, which offers no COVID-19 testing. Gibson and Warrick County health departments do not offer rapid testing. The Posey County Health Department does offer it by appointment.

Indiana has more than 650 testing sites across the state, including 18 in Vanderburgh County. Click on the testing map at www.coronavirus.in.gov to find a testing location.

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The PCR test will continue to be offered at all testing sites. People can get PCR test results in 24-48 hours, on average.

The changes announced Tuesday morning do speak to national shortages of the popular antigen tests, which can deliver results within 10 to 15 minutes. Along with the more transmissible omicron variant, it has led Hoosiers to wait in long lines to get tested.

The tests are also available for purchase for at home use, with some stores selling out within hours of getting additional deliveries.

The Indiana State Department of Health said rapid tests at health department sites will be available only to individuals ages 18 and younger and symptomatic people who are at least 50. Appointments for rapid tests previously scheduled for Tuesday will be honored while testing supplies last, the state agency said.

The state has prioritized rapid testing for older sick individuals to ensure that those who are at risk for severe disease are identified in time to undergo monoclonal antibody treatment, which needs to be administered within 10 days of symptom onset and ideally even earlier, to be effective.

Schoolchildren also remain eligible for the rapid tests as new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines allow those who have been exposed to COVID-19 to return to school if they have a negative test on the fifth day of their exposure.

Indiana typically uses about 50,000 rapid tests per week but is now guaranteed to receive just 11,000 weekly, the state said. In addition to that weekly flow, the state has been able to acquire about 10,000 Quidell QuickVue tests.

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State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said during a news update Wednesday that Indiana supplies the Abbott BinaxNOW rapid test to state and local health department sites, long-term health care facilities, schools and jails. That's where the average of 50,000 rapid tests have been used.

"We are actively looking for other sources that have rapid tests," Box said, "But at this time, we have no guarantees of our future supply."

With increasing community transmission, the state has extended hours at its community testing and vaccination clinic outside Indianapolis Motor Speedway, though state officials have strongly encouraged people to make an appointment and register ahead of time.

President Joe Biden acknowledged the nationwide rapid testing shortage last week during a call with the National Governors Association, after a holiday weekend of high demand exacerbated by the spread of the omicron variant.

The Biden administration announced last week that it purchased 500 million at-home rapid COVID tests that can be delivered to Americans who want them next month, USA Today reported.

Thomas B. Langhorne can be reached by email at tom.langhorne@courierpress.com.

This article originally appeared on Evansville Courier & Press: Indiana reducing rapid COVID testing at state and local health sites