The Indiana Department of Health has restricted those eligible for rapid COVID testing at state-run sites as demand for testing continues to soar during a spate of cases largely due to the spread of the omicron variant.
According to the new state guidelines, rapid antigenic tests are currently only available for those 18 years or younger, regardless of symptoms, or for those who are 50 years and older, but symptomatic.
The department said the change, announced on Tuesday, was “due to high demand and a nationwide shortage of rapid test kits.”
“This change is necessary due to the national shortage of rapid antigen testing and is designed to help ensure that students can stay in school and that those Hoosiers who are most likely to need a monoclonal antibody are identified in the prescribed window in which they can be administered, “the department said in a statement,” Indiana typically uses about 50,000 rapid tests per week, but is only guaranteed to receive 11,000 per week for the moment.”
In addition to the changes in guidelines, the state plans to increase hours at several testing sites.
The Indiana Department of Health’s weekly risk assessment released last week placed 27 of the state’s 92 counties at the highest risk for the spread of coronaviruses, with all others in the second category the highest of “moderate spread”.
Cases of the virus in adults under 40 and in children account for “a large portion” of recent new cases, State Department of Health chief medical officer Dr Lindsay Weaver said on Wednesday. School cases also rose ahead of the winter break to some of the highest levels in months.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Indiana has increased by more than 700% since June, and the state’s hospital census is now at the highest level in five years, she continued.
“We often see patients being held in the emergency room for hours and sometimes days until a bed (becomes) available, which is difficult for the patient, their family and the staff,” Weaver said. “It’s heartbreaking to see people arriving in distress from COVID knowing that their serious illness could have been prevented with a vaccine. “
The Indiana Department of Health reported on Wednesday that 54.6% of Indiana residents aged 18 and older are fully immunized. State Health Commissioner Dr Kristina Box said it was “critical” for more Hoosiers to be vaccinated, especially those between the ages of 5 and 59.
She also noted that the state was struggling to get its hands on rapid tests, which led to “overwhelming demand” and long lines of hours at state test sites, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. She said health officials are now “diligently seeking” other sources of rapid tests.
“This situation will get worse before it gets better,” Box said. “We expect a very large increase in the number of cases in the coming weeks.”
Holcomb also announced last week that it had extended the statewide COVID-19 public health emergency to the New Year following an unsuccessful attempt by lawmakers to quickly approve the measures it the governor was seeking to let the declaration expire.
The governor signed the 22nd month-long extension of the public health emergency he first issued in March 2020, along with an executive decree pursuing a handful of administrative actions, but no trade restrictions or crowd. Both ordinances are in effect until February 1.
Holcomb’s emergency order said about 96% of recent COVID-19 hospitalizations and 79% of deaths in the state involved unvaccinated people and said “the virus remains a health threat , the safety and well-being of all residents of Indiana “.