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Homeland Security

Indiana National Guard helps collect COVID-19 data

By Staff Sgt. Justin Andras | Indiana National Guard April 30, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana National Guard helped the Indiana State Department of Health and local agencies test for COVID-19 at new study test sites across the state April 25-29.

The initiative by Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health is to examine the prevalence of the coronavirus among Hoosiers to better combat the health crisis.

"This is exactly the kind of innovative Hoosier thinking and action taking we are known for," said Holcomb. "In terms of thoroughness, I would put this studying project up against any other project in the country that we have been looking at."

In the study, 10,000 randomly selected Hoosiers across the state were invited to be tested to ensure results accurately reflected racial, ethnic and geographic demographics.

"This study will give us better understanding of the extent to which individuals are showing antibodies that indicate signs of past infection," said Dr. Kristina Box, ISDH commissioner. "We believe this data will better inform our plans to safely reopen our state and determine what the new normal mode of operation looks like."

The testing sites included eight fixed, drive-thru sites and 10 recreational vehicles set up for testing, which took place in 54 counties throughout the state. Guard Soldiers, Airmen and other medical personnel obtained samples via intranasal swab and blood extraction.

"The interagency operability has been vital to the success of this mission," said Sgt. Tyler Ellis, Troop A, 1st Squadron, 152 Cavalry Regiment and noncommissioned officer in charge of the testing site in Noblesville. "We all came together and contributed equipment, resources and personnel to create a full-scale site to swab for COVID-19 and draw blood for the antibody test."

The collaborative effort involved ISDH, Fairbanks School of Public Health, Indiana National Guard, Indiana State Department of Transportation, local emergency medical services personnel and other organizations and allowed medical professionals to explore alternative means for treating COVID-19 until an effective vaccine is available.

"It is exciting to be supporting this in-depth scientific study about what this virus is doing within our population," said Sgt. 1st Class Justin Cadle of the 2nd Battalion, 151st Infantry Regiment and noncommissioned officer in charge of the testing site at Ivy Tech College, Valparaiso. "We're just a piece of the pie helping to complete this mission along with the state and local agencies."

"These tasks that help out the community are what you join the National Guard for," said Ellis. "People can come through this testing site, feel safe and see that we are here to help out in times of need."

State officials said data acquired via the testing would help in the search for a method to flatten the curve and defeat the coronavirus.

"We are very grateful to our medics from the National Guard for taking blood samples and the EMS workers who will work to collect specimens," said Box. "It truly does take a village to pull off something like this, and we are grateful to everyone who is contributing their part for this study."

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