Instead of overtaking the OptumServe COVID-19 testing operations at the Kokomo Senior Center, Howard County will be opening its own testing center in the former city health clinic on North Bell Street.
The move will allow testing operations to begin concurrently with the OptumServe facility, as the state’s contract with Optum was extended through October. The new clinic, run by the county, has an anticipated opening date of early October.
The original plan was for the county to continue testing at the senior center after the OptumServe contract ended, but Health Department Public Health Emergency Coordinator Kristina Sommers said the location change was suggested by city officials after senior citizens expressed concern with the continued use of the senior center for COVID-19 testing purposes.
“I think after the articles had ran in both papers about us remaining at the senior center, they got a lot of calls from the senior citizens in the community that utilize that building with concerns,” Sommers said. “ … Say like in February, there’s a vaccine and some of them have been vaccinated and things slow down. If they’re able to start doing some activities safely (and) would like to have that opportunity (to return to the senior center), then obviously it’s easier to move the testing now then to move it later when we’re switching programs.”
Currently, the health department is awaiting approval of its budget before beginning the hiring process for employees for the testing site. Approval of the budget is expected to happen on Sept. 22.
According to Sommers, two teams will be working at the testing site, including several part-time clinicians and registration employees. Two full-time supervisors who will oversee the teams also will be hired.
In addition, a mobile testing site will operate in the county every Friday. The locations are set at Community Physician Network Family Medicine Care in Greentown, the UAW Local 685 union hall, and the Kokomo-Howard Public Library south and Russiaville branches.
Testing is free, and is not necessary to have health insurance or to live in Howard County to be tested for COVID-19 at the site. Those being tested also do not have to be displaying symptoms of the virus.
Currently, the average turnaround time for testing results is two to three days.
Howard County has had 1,237 cases of COVID-19 and 65 deaths due to the virus.