testing site

TESTING — A group exits the testing center at the Kokomo Senior Center in Foster Park last Wednesday. They were among 113 tested on opening day.

Kokomo’s COVID-19 testing facility now will be operating through the end of July, and possibly even longer.

Recently, the Howard County Health Department got word that the state would be extending the Optum testing facility that has been operating in the Kokomo Senior Center. That testing site, which originally opened in May, also will be able to serve more people as well.

“The basic fact is if you feel sick or you think you’ve been exposed, then yes you should go get tested,” said Jennifer Cauthern, public health project coordinator for the Howard County Health Department. “Having the free testing site opens up that availability. If people want to get tested, just for the peace of mind, they can do that now, including if a household may have been exposed, children can be tested now. It’s a little bit easier than going to a primary care doctor in a couple situations.”

Originally, the Optum testing facilities across the state only were available to those who had symptoms, were considered high risk, or may have been in contact with someone who has tested positive. But, beginning on June 15, everyone could be tested.

In addition to that, the local Optum facility received an extension. When it first opened, it was slated to remain open until the end of June. However, Cauthern said the state extended the site, now keeping the local testing center open until July 31. She also said the Howard County Health Department hasn’t been made aware of a specific shut down date, and that it may very well stay open beyond July 31.

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According to Cauthern, the Optum testing center likely has been the largest contributor to local testing since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

When it first opened, the facility saw a sizable turnout, with a surge of individuals receiving tests at the center. According to Cauthern, daily turnout averages dropped after several days but have again increased recently. Cauthern credited the increase to a campaign by the health department to better advertise the testing location.

The latest figures available through the state showed that as of Monday 5,584 COVID-19 tests had been administered in Howard County. There have been 538 positive cases of COVID-19 and 57 deaths.

“I think if you look at Howard County compared to some of the other counties in the state, we’re sitting at about a 10.2 percent positive, which I think is good because you increase testing, you increase the probability of positives,” said Cauthern. “But just because you’re increasing testing doesn’t mean you’re increasing the positives; you’re just going to find the positives. That’s one of the good things about open testing. Now you can find the positives that are out there then quarantine them to reduce risk to high-risk individuals. And still, 10 percent is pretty low, so I think we’re doing pretty good there.”

The local testing facility is located within the Kokomo Senior Center in Foster Park at 721 W. Superior St. Appointments can be scheduled online at https://lhi.care/covidtesting, or individuals can call 888-634-1116. Walk-in appointments are also available. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.