Feature   Defense News

Indiana Guard Bolsters COVID-19 Testing at Long-Term Care Facilities

July 15, 2020 | BY AIR FORCE STAFF SGT. JUSTIN ANDRAS

Medical personnel from the Indiana National Guard assisted OptumServe with statewide testing of more than 47,000 employees at 520 long-term care facilities as part of an initiative by the Indiana State Department of Health.

"Testing is a key component in reducing asymptomatic viral spread; that's why our strategy focuses on testing all staff of these facilities," ISDH Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said in a June 10 news conference. "This is the largest testing operation the state has done during this pandemic."

A guardsman wearing protective equipment conducts a COVID-19 test.
Nasal Swab
A medic from the Indiana National Guard conducts testing for COVID-19 at the Greenwood Healthcare Center in Greenwood, Ind., June 24, 2020. The Indiana National Guard assisted OptumServe with statewide testing of more than 47,000 employees at 520 long-term care facilities as part of a new initiative by the Indiana State Department of Health.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Andras, Indiana Air National Guard
VIRIN: 200624-Z-OQ080-001

To determine the most effective way to complete this broad testing initiative, ISDH asked each facility how many total employees they had and whether they were able and willing to conduct the testing themselves, provided they received the necessary supplies. Otherwise, mobile testing would be provided to them.

"Dr. Box and the governor's wish was to have every long-term care facility employee in the state of Indiana tested for COVID-19, since they are the ones taking care of our high-risk population," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lewis, senior medic and noncommissioned officer in charge of the central Indiana region.

A nurse holding a clipboard speaks with two men. All are wearing face masks.
Masked Conversation
A nurse gathers information from Andrew Pappas, the senior environmental manager with the Indiana State Department of Health, center, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lewis, senior medic and noncommissioned officer in charge with the Indiana Air National Guard, right, at the Greenwood Healthcare Center in Greenwood, Ind., June 24, 2020. The Indiana National Guard assisted OptumServe with statewide testing of more than 47,000 employees at 520 long-term care facilities as part of an initiative by the Indiana State Department of Health.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Andras, Indiana Air National Guard
VIRIN: 200624-Z-OQ080-0016

As the virus has spread throughout Indiana, several facilities have been exposed, resulting in deaths. This initiative aims to prevent further losses in these areas containing high-risk individuals, officials said.

"COVID-19 has taken a terrible toll on our most vulnerable residents in our long-term care facilities," Box said. "We know that many of the outbreaks started when a staff member who had no symptoms unknowingly brought the infection into the particular facility."

Fighting the spread of the virus within these communities required converting some of the OptumServe test sites into mobile testing at the facilities. These resources were taken from 11 counties with below-average testing numbers.

A guardsman administers a COVID-19 nasal swab test as a nurse watches.
Swab Test
A medic from the Indiana National Guard trains a nurse on how to conduct a nasal swab test for COVID-19 at the Riverwalk Village long-term care facility in Noblesville, Ind., June 13, 2020. The Indiana National Guard assisted OptumServe with statewide testing of more than 47,000 employees at 520 long-term care facilities as part of an initiative by the Indiana State Department of Health.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Andras, Indiana Air National Guard
VIRIN: 200613-Z-OQ080-0030

Ultimately, about 440 facilities elected to complete their own testing. The remaining sites had guard medical staff administer testing. The guardsmen also delivered supplies, set up testing stations, registered facility employees and trained facility nurses to conduct the tests.

''This provides a true picture of COVID in the long-term care facilities,'' Lewis said. ''Being able to get every facility worker tested will go a long way towards helping slow the spread.''

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Andras is assigned to Indiana National Guard Headquarters.)