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Indiana puts restrictions on its rapid COVID-19 tests

Cars in line for COVID-19 testing in Floyd County in March 2020.
A concerned citizen is tested for COVID-19 at the Floyd County Health Department on March 20, 2020.

The Indiana Department of Health has put restrictions on the state’s supply of rapid COVID-19 tests, as high demand strains testing supplies. 

Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel said he received notice at the start of the week that as of Wednesday, the rapid tests given at the health department should be reserved for those 18 and under or those 50 and older with symptoms. 

The directive is for agencies which get tests from the state, he said. 

Yazel said that as the quick tests have become more available over the past year, many coming through the health department sites have opted for those. 

“Rapids are essentially all anybody wants when they come to the testing sites,” he said. “It went from a convenience to an expectation. And I get it – it's nice to know.”

But while the quick tests take just 15 minutes for results, they can be less accurate in detecting a positive case, especially with the omicron variant, Yazel said. The PCR tests can take a few days for results but are much more accurate. 

“Even though we are sacrificing a little bit of convenience,” Yazel said about the new rules, “we are getting a little uptick in accuracy by doing the PCR.”

His main concern with the current limitation is how it might affect someone in a different age group who may need a positive test before getting treatment. 

“What about the 40-year-old with multiple medical problems who would be a good candidate for the monoclonal antibody or the new oral medicine or something like that?” he said. “I don't know that they're going to be able to get some of those modalities until they have a positive test.”

He said the health department has been at full capacity for testing in recent weeks, with 140 to 150 appointments per day. The rapid test supply started to dwindle over the past month. Two days in December, the department couldn’t give them. 

Yazel said they had around 120 rapid kits available when they got the new directive Monday. 

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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