Chesterton Tribune



County Health Department waiting on guidance to take over C19 testing

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Porter County Health Officer Dr. Maria Stamp said the Health Department is waiting on State guidance for running its own COVID-19 testing in her report to the County Health Board Tuesday night.

Widespread testing is available through the State’s contract with Optum, but that contract expires at the end of this month, Stamp said.

Stamp said the Optum testing site, which moved from the Valparaiso National Guard Armory to an old Northshore Health clinic building in Portage recently, doubled their testing capacity a couple weeks ago, so they’ve been able to offer 254 tests per day.

Stamp said she was tested at the Optum site last week. “I went on Friday morning at 8:05. I was there for less than 10 minutes, and in that time, I think 10 people came behind me. I received my negative test result on Sunday morning, exactly 48 hours later.”

According to Stamp, registering for a test was easy too. “The registration is probably a 10-page click through, and that is the most onerous part of it,” she said. “So we’re going to have pretty big shoes to fill, and hopefully in the next few weeks the State will start giving us some information about how we’re going to be trained and how we’re going to provide that.”

Stamp said northwest Indiana counties got together to discuss the costs of running their own testing and were able to procure additional State funding at up to $100,000 per site. Stamp said Porter County would be allowed two sites, and those sites would be expected to be open for at least 35 hours a week with evening hours twice a week and Saturday hours offered. These sites are planned to operate at least from September 2020 through June 2021 and would be staffed by the County, Stamp said, likely from a combination of existing employees and new hires.

Connie Rudd, the department’s director of nursing, is working on ways to staff the new sites and has talked to some employees at the Optum site who’ve expressed interest in staying on, Stamp said. She added that capturing some of the Optum employees would be a plus because they’re already familiar with the process.

Stamp said the department is still looking for locations. They’ve been offered the Expo Center, but Stamp said she’s a bit hesitant because Expo would still be hosting events, which could pose schedule conflicts and require the testing equipment be frequently moved. Stamp hopes to have one site in Portage and one in Valparaiso, and to partner with Health Linc to use a mobile site that can visit other areas.

Local Numbers

Stamp said she’s happy to see more people wearing masks since the Governor’s mandate went into effect, and, on a positive note, Porter County’s positive cases among those under 30 are beginning to go down after a spike that started after fourth of July celebrations.

“After the fourth, there were a lot of additional social events that happened, and our numbers of positive cases climbed,” she said. “We did have some outbreaks associated with some social events. If any of you are on social media, I’m sure you heard of them.”

“Most of them were very good about working with us in terms of contact tracers,” Stamp said, including one mother who made an excel spreadsheet of her son’s contacts. “It was amazing. We wanted to hire her.”

Because positivity rates are not a perfect way of understanding what’s safe, Stamp is hoping to offer the public a better system of understanding positivity rates and threat level soon using a graded system like State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box has recommended for schools.


Posted 8/5/2020




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