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Demand for COVID-19 testing skyrocketing in Indiana with children back in school

The State Department of Health is calling back the National Guard for help at testing sites due to the significant increase in demand for testing.

Jessica Snellbaker brought an SUV full of kids to get tested for COVID-19 Wednesday afternoon at the Marion County Public Health Department drive-thru testing site at 3838 N. Rural Street in Indianapolis.

"They went to school this morning, and then my niece started having symptoms,” said Snellbaker, whose family attends Franklin Township Schools. “But there were eight kids total coming out of school when we were leaving."

Snellbaker is also waiting on test results for an older daughter who came home sick from school Monday. She plays on the basketball team and Snellbaker is concerned that her daughter may lead to many students traced as close contacts.

“It's just like a domino effect,” said Snellbaker. “And so, it was like, 'OK, we're done for 14 days at least.'"

RELATED: Westfield, Brownsburg schools reinstating mask policy

The Marion County Public Health Department is operating just one COVID-19 testing site in the parking lot of its headquarters. In the last two weeks as students returned to classrooms, the number of tests has doubled to about 85 a day. The line was steady but not overwhelming Wednesday during the noon hour.

The seven-day average of COVID tests across the state has climbed from less than 10,000 a day in early July to over 27,000 in mid-August.

"The demand for testing skyrocketed right about the same time that many of our testing sites across the state were kind of decreasing the amount of hours that they were available to do testing, which we know has resulted in some prolonged waits and frustrations,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box.

Many of the vehicles waiting in long lines at some COVID testing sites include parents with school children.

"A big part of that is kids,” said Box. “Kids that are symptomatic whose parents are concerned and want them tested; kids who have been sent home because they had a headache or a stomachache and in order to get back into school, they need to be able to have a negative test; kids that have been quarantined because of a close contact and they weren't masked and so they've been sent home, and now they want to get tested to get back into school."

The Indiana State Department of Health is calling back the National Guard for help at testing sites, directing staff back to testing, and asking all vaccine sites across the state to also offer testing.

“It's not just what we can do,” said Governor Eric Holcomb. “It's what you can do to solve the problem. We need you to do the right thing, and that's get vaccinated, and that will keep our kids in school. That will keep our businesses open."

The daily average of COVID tests in Indiana now runs almost three times more than the daily vaccinations.

The state health department plans to announce a partnership next month with an agency that can provide COVID testing in schools. But that may not be up and running until October.

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