With the first case of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 reported in Grant County Friday, local health officials still say they cannot disclose the number of individuals who have been tested for the virus in Grant County. However, a Marion resident living in limbo while awaiting results is asking for answers.
Michael Osburn, 30, of Marion, said he is likely out of a job, is in self-isolation and has been awaiting results from a COVID-19 test since last Thursday. He took a nose swab test for 10 viruses and heard that he tested negative for nine of those almost immediately. However, he said he is getting the run-around on his COVID-19 results.
“It is not good,” Osburn said. “I’m out of work and it is not because I’ve tested positive – because I could still be negative – it is because I don’t have results.”
Osburn was tested because he had contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19. Initially, he said he was told by Marion General Hospital (MGH) that results would be ready in 3-4 days, then when he called the testing laboratory, Lab Corp., he was told 5-7 days.
Sarah Evans, MGH’s public information officer, said MGH staffers are doing the best they can to get results out quickly. She said the hospital recognizes how crucial it is to get information quickly, but asked for patience as test results are coming back more slowly than expected.
Evans said MGH has test kits on hand but cannot disclose how many tests have been given due to HIPAA privacy laws.
Under current conditions, Evans said tests sent to the Indiana State Health Department’s (ISDH) lab take only 2-4 days, but tests sent to reference labs are taking a minimum of eight days to process, due to backlog.
“As you can imagine, there are many people who want to be tested,” Evans said. “The laboratories are inundated.”
Since the requirements are more stringent for tests to be sent to ISDH’s lab, she said many samples are being sent to reference labs. Evans said MGH follows guidelines for testing that are set by ISDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“There are a lot of questions about testing, but there are a lot of questions I’m just not able to answer..,” Evans said. “There are just very strict criteria with regard to who can be tested.”
Grant County Health Officer William David Moore said he does not have any information on local testing because all tests are administered through MGH.
Daily COVID-19 testing in Indiana expanded this week with a new partnership between ISDH and Eli Lilly and Company, with at least one other entity initiating testing this week, according to a release from ISDH.
“As we increase the number of tests analyzed each day, no one should be caught off guard that the number of positive cases will increase,” said Kris Box, state health commissioner. “This will help us know where community spread is occurring in Indiana and help us mobilize resources in affected areas.”
As of 10 a.m. Friday, 79 Indiana residents have tested positive, out of 554 tests that have been administered by ISDH or the CDC. With one case in Grant County, five cases in Howard County and one case each in Madison and Wells counties, the area is becoming more densely populated with cases.
Osburn said he is concerned many others, especially his coworkers, could be infected if he does have the virus because COVID-19 can be asymptomatic for up to two weeks before symptoms emerge.
“Because there are a lot of people who work there, if I am positive, who knows how many people have it, are infected and are spreading it around,” Osburn said.
After experiencing COVID-19 symptoms like shortness of breath and severe cough for several days without improvement, Osburn made the decision to go to MGH for a test. At least one other coworker is experiencing similar symptoms and has quarantined at home, he said.
Evans urged any individual showing COVID-19 symptoms, especially if they have recently traveled to Europe or Asia, to quarantine at home and to reach out to MGH at 765-660-6999 to consult with medical professionals. According to a MGH release, red-flag symptoms to call about are fever over 100 degrees, cough and difficulty breathing.