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Indiana to conduct random sample testing for COVID-19 for scientific study

Researchers hope the tests will help them better understand how the coronavirus spreads by studying everyone, not just those with COVID-19 symptoms.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Indiana State Department of Health is collaborating with the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI to conduct a scientific study to measure the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state.

On Monday, more than 1,000 randomly selected Hoosiers had already been tested for coronavirus as part of the study.

“We are collecting both a nasopharyngeal swab and blood tests from everyone who is participating, so that's going to tell us who is already infected and who right now, has already developed antibodies,” said Dr. Nir Menachemi, professor and Fairbanks Endowed Chair in the Fairbanks School of Public Health and principal investigator on the study.

Dr. Menachemi said he hopes by sampling a random population, not just those who have tested positive, medical experts might be able to better understand how the coronavirus is moving through society.

“We want to catch all the people with symptoms, but more importantly all the people without symptoms, or the ones who had mild symptoms,” he explained. “They represent all of those people that we just don't know anything about right now.”

ISDH and IU will perform scientifically valid random sampling of Hoosiers in tests conducted in four phases over the next year, which began Saturday, April 25.

In total, at least 20,000 Hoosiers will be tested for the study. Select members of the public are being asked to participate, by invitation only, to ensure that the sampling is representative of the population.

5,000 were selected for Phase 1, which ends on Wednesday. Testing for the study will be conducted at eight fixed and 10 mobile sites around the state.

The second phase will start in May.

“Number one, you'll get a free COVID-19 test, you'll get to know whether you are currently infected or whether or not you've been previously infected, and separately, you'll play that important role for your community and for your state to sort of ultimately help make a decision on when to re-open everything,” explained Dr. Menachemi who calls this a win-win for those selected to take the test.

Dr. Menachemi said he hopes to present the findings from Phase 1 to Indiana state leaders by this time next week.

Participants will be notified of their eligibility for the study by mail, text message, email or phone and will be directed to the testing site closest to their residence. Registrants will receive a unique code that they will show at the testing site as proof of participation.

There will be a mobile site in Clark County at the Walmart on Veterans Parkway on Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

There will be a mobile site in Floyd County at the Walmart on Grant Line Road on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Contact reporter Heather Fountaine athfountaine@whas11.com and follow her onTwitter (@WHAS11Heather) andFacebook

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