(FISHERS, Ind.) – Indianapolis and Fishers plan to set up their own coronavirus testing programs late next week.
Both cities say they expect to conduct about 200 tests a day — Indianapolis says it hopes to eventually triple that number as it adds testing sites.
Indiana has struggled to get enough swabs, chemicals and protective gear to scale up testing. Marion
County health director Virginia Caine says she’s signed a contract with IU Health to provide supplies, while Fishers will work with a local lab.
Indy is focusing its testing push on minority neighborhoods which have been hardest hit by the virus.
African-Americans in Indy, as well as statewide and nationally, have had disproportionately high infection and death rates. The first testing center, Eastern Star Church, is in an eastside neighborhood which Caine says has had the highest coronavirus infection rate in the county. Pastor Jeffrey Johnson says the goal is make testing accessible to people who either don’t have a regular doctor to recommend a test or lack transportation to go get one.
Caine says testing will be available to people with symptoms and those in high-risk groups: senior citizens and people with underlying health conditions. She says she’s also hoping to reach those who are on the front lines of providing food and delivery services to people who are sheltering at home.
Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness says he’ll spend two-million dollars from the city’s reserves to start the
testing program through the Fishers Fire Department. He says he believes the city has enough capacity to test any city resident, whether they have symptoms or not, but says a city medical board will set protocols for testing on Monday. He says his goal is to make sure Fishers has the necessary testing for the long haul, so it can respond quickly to any outbreaks after businesses start reopening.
Fadness says he’ll also ask the city council in a special meeting on Friday to make Fishers the third
Indiana city with its own health department, separate from the county. He says the city plans to have public-health specialists make the rounds of businesses to advise them on how to reopen safely. And the city is establishing a half-million-dollar loan fund to help businesses get back on their feet.
Fadness and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett both echo Governor Holcomb in saying that while they want to be able to lift restrictions, it’s critically important not to do so prematurely. Fadness says one business owner told him he can ride out a longer shutdown, but reopening for a few weeks and then having to close a second time would be fatal.
Fadness says eight of Hamilton County’s 42 coronavirus deaths have been Fishers residents. The virus has killed 228 people in Marion County, a third of the statewide death toll.