INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Department of Health will close COVID-19 testing sites run by OptumServe Health Services effective June 30 now that a robust community-led testing network is in place, including pharmacies, providers, clinics and local health departments.
The change won’t affect free testing at Kendallville’s Community Learning Center, which originally was operated by OptumServe but transitioned to a different provider toward the end of 2021.
The partnership with OptumServe, which is concluding after 14 months, was announced by Gov. Eric J. Holcomb in April 2020 to bring large-scale testing to Hoosiers and remove barriers to testing by providing free and nearby access at a time when community resources were limited. Since May 6, 2020, more than 541,000 free COVID-19 tests have been provided at an OptumServe site.
Prior to the launch of OptumServe sites in May 2020, testing for COVID-19 was scarce and only certain people could qualify based on their existing symptoms, age or underlying conditions.
Early in the pandemic, a study by the IUPUI Fairbanks School of Public Medicine estimated that about 10 in 11 cases of COVID-19 were being undetected in Indiana due to that bottleneck of testing ability.
“We are grateful to OptumServe for its work to ensure that Hoosiers had COVID testing available to them while we worked to build more local capacity,” said Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box. “Without their work, many Hoosiers who were exposed to COVID or showing symptoms might never have known their status. I have no doubt that having this resource available helped reduce the spread of COVID in our state.”
At its peak, OptumServe provided testing in 53 counties. Currently, 30 counties have an OptumServe testing site. Throughout 2020 and early 2021, more community-based providers, clinics and pharmacies have been able to offer COVID-19 testing, reducing the need for Optum sites. In addition, local health departments received state grants in the fall of 2020 to open nearly 100 testing sites.
Noble County was one of those department receiving a state grant, which is when its free community clinic at the Community Learning Center transitioned from OptumServe to Vantage Point, which has been conducted the free testing service since, Noble County Health Officer Dr. Terry Gaff said.
Gaff said the cancellation of the OptumServe contract won’t impact the CLC site, although the location is schedule to close there and relocate because the CLC will no longer be able to host it. Gaff said the county is still in the process of finding another host site to continue the availability of free testing to those who need it.
Testing is available at other locations including doctors offices, pharmacies or hospitals, although not always free of charge.
The nearest OptumServe sites to northeast Indiana are located in Fort Wayne and Columbia City, with none currently operating in the four-county area.
Box said demand for testing has decreased across the state and noted that free testing will remain available at more than 250 sites after the Optum sites close. You can find a COVID-19 testing site near you by visiting coronavirus.in.gov.
“While our case counts have fallen significantly, we must continue to take steps to reduce the spread of disease,” Box said. “We remain committed to ensuring that any Hoosier who wants or needs to be tested can receive that testing in a location that’s convenient.”
Statewide, average testing numbers have dropped from a high of about 45,000 tests per day being conducted in November and December 2020 to an average of only about 18,500 per day so far this month.
As approximately 45% of Hoosiers age 12 and older are now fully vaccinated, those people no longer need to test if they are exposed to someone who has COVID-19 as it’s extremely unlikely for them to contract to the virus once fully vaccinated.
Indiana has seen just over 2,000 “breakthrough” cases of COVID-19 — cases identified in people who are at least two weeks past their final vaccine shot — but that represents just 0.077% of people who have received the vaccine in Indiana.