State officials break down coronavirus study; nearly 45% who tested positive in Indiana were asymptomatic

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS – For the first time, the state has given Hoosiers a look at a statistical analysis of the prevalence of COVID-19 in Indiana.

During Wednesday’s briefing, Dr. Paul Halverson and Dr. Nir Menachemi from the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI discussed the preliminary results of the study. The school partnered with the Indiana State Department of Health for random testing of about 4,600 Hoosiers.

Halverson said the random testing can help the state understand the scope of COVID-19 in Indiana without testing everyone, which is impractical.

The results are preliminary, Menachemi emphasized. The testing, which will include four waves, conducted the first wave between April 25 and May 1.

The results were then examined and the results interpolated to reflect trends for the whole state.

According to the results, 1.7% tested positive for COVID-19. Another 1.1% tested positive for antibodies, meaning they had contracted the coronavirus at some point.

The study projected the prominence of COVID-19 among the general population at 2.8%–that would be an estimated 186,000 Hoosiers. In that same time frame, the state was aware of only 17,000 cases.

Menachemi said that meant only 1 out of every 11 true infections was reflected in state testing during that period.

Furthermore, the study showed the mortality rate was 0.58% in Indiana during the time frame. That’s nearly six times the mortality rate of the flu (0.1%), researchers noted.

More alarmingly, 44.8% of Hoosiers were asymptomatic—which means they had COVID-19 but showed none of the typical symptoms, making them vectors for spreading the coronavirus to vulnerable populations.

Non-whites and Hispanics had higher rates of infection than whites, the study showed.

Menachemi said the vast majority of people in Indiana have not been exposed and are susceptible to infection from COVID-19.

Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have helped slow the spread, he said.

The second wave of testing for the study will start in early June, again with randomized subjects. Comparing the two data sets will allow the state to gauge the spread of COVID-19.

Menachemi emphasized that it was extremely important for individuals to participate in the next round of testing.

“Please make it a priority to participate,” he said.

The Indiana State Health Department (ISDH) reported 409 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and 38 new deaths, bringing the statewide totals to 25,473 and 1,482, respectively.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said the state’s supply of ICU beds and ventilators was holding steady. Large amounts of PPE were headed to public health departments and hospitals. The material includes coveralls, masks, face shields, etc.

The state received two shipments of remdesivir, a drug that has been shown to help some patients. One shipment went to a northern Indiana hospital that was considered a hot spot while another went to the state health department.

“We are very grateful to have this resource available for Hoosiers,” Box said.

Box said social distancing and good hygiene are the key to keeping Indiana heading in the right direction. The prevalence of asymptomatic individuals means everyone should treat it like they’re infected and take precautions, including masks.

The state opened more sites offering COVID-19 testing and said testing from the state was free. Officials encouraged people who are showing symptoms to get tested and emphasized testing for those in vulnerable populations.

While the numbers are showing some encouraging signs, Gov. Eric Holcomb and the others said Hoosiers must continue to be careful. The state has outlined its plan to reopen, but Holcomb said it was possible that Indiana could fall back to a previous phase of the reopening plan if there’s a surge in cases.

“I don’t want us to retreat back to a prior stage,” Holcomb said, adding that he would if necessary.

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