-- Indiana’s state-sponsored coronavirus testing program has not been
meeting the levels of testing or the speed of results that were touted when
it was started in May.
OptumServe Health Services was expected to have 50 testing sites operating
around Indiana by the end of May, providing 100,000 free tests a month and
providing results within an average of 48 hours, state officials said.
The state health
commissioner, Dr. Kristina Box, said Wednesday that the company had 35
testing sites open, with results averaging 59 hours and sometimes up to 80
hours to become available. The program’s online registration site warns that
it could take four to six days for results.
Box blamed the
slower-than-expected results on a national increase in demand for test
processing and supplies as the number of COVID-19 cases has surged in
Indiana and other states, many of which aggressively lifted virus
restrictions to reopen their economies.
“These are external
factors that are beyond our control,” Box said.
is a division of insurance giant UnitedHealth Group, has closed some testing
sites because they were located in schools that are now preparing to reopen
for students or were in non-air conditioned locations during recent hot
weather, Box said.
The company has
performed about 102,000 tests for the public at its sites, she said. That
means OptumServe has just recently passed the 100,000 test mark that it had
been expected to reach in May.
Brian Dixon, a
professor at Indiana University’s Fairbanks School of Public Health, said he
worries that the testing troubles will hurt the state’s ability to slow the
spread of the coronavirus.
“If it takes an
additional two to five days to confirm someone has COVID, it means the
individual could potentially spread the virus to others before getting their
lab result,” Dixon said. “If we ask these individuals to stay home until
their lab result comes back, people will be forced to be off work for a
longer period of time while they wait for their results.”
Thursday that it had built within weeks the capacity to conduct 100,000
tests a month in Indiana and also attributed the delayed results on the
increased processing workloads at laboratories.
continues to work closely with the state of Indiana to meet our commitments
to increase testing capacity for Hoosiers,” company spokesman Aaron Albright
The state agreed to
a $17.9 million contract for the OptumServe testing in May, which officials
hoped would be covered by federal grants.
State officials are
reviewing the company’s May invoice and expects payment to be between $7
million and $8 million, The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette reported. The cost
is dependent on number of tests run and number of testing locations, with an
invoice for June not yet submitted.
The state health
department expects to continue its contract with OptumServe through August
and to continue to evaluate whether to proceed further with the program,
agency spokeswoman Jennifer O’Malley said.
“As we have done
throughout the pandemic, (the state health department) continues to work
with local health departments and other partners to expand testing
opportunities around the state,” O’Malley said. “Those discussions are
ongoing and no plans have been finalized.”
Health Officer Dr. Don Zent said he was preparing to open a county-run
testing site in Kokomo as soon as September in expectation that the state
would end its OptumServe contract, which would shutter the company’s
location in the city. The state would provide some money for training,
computers, supplies and personal protective equipment, but the county health
department would still need about $100,000.
to run a single
testing site from September to June 2021, Zent told the Kokomo Tribune.
“We’d like to do
that, but I don’t know if we can afford to do it,” Zent said.