JOINT RELEASE: Marion County Public Health Department, City of Indianapolis to expand COVID-19 testing in Marion County

Published on Thursday, 23 April 2020 20:36

April 23, 2020

Testing effort aimed at addressing health disparities in minority communities

INDIANAPOLIS – Today, the Marion County Public Health Department and the City of Indianapolis announced plans to expand COVID-19 testing, in order to address the disparities in the impact of COVID-19 among African-American residents and those of older age groups. Eastern Star Church will serve as the testing site for this expanded service, beginning next week.

“The magnitude of the disparities in COVID-19 outcomes faced by African-Americans and vulnerable populations throughout Marion County underscores not just the importance of testing, but also the obligation for all us to continue working to flatten the curve,” said Dr. Virginia A. Caine, director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department. “Only after increasing testing for those higher-risk communities will we begin to understand the true impact of this virus in our county.”

According to data released by the Marion County Public Health Department, African-American residents have been three times more likely than white residents to get diagnosed with a confirmed case of COVID-19, two and a half times more likely to be hospitalized due to the virus, and twice as likely to die from it. Residents at higher risk for complications from the COVID-19 infection are those with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, asthma, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and asthma.

“The data is clear: COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on our city’s minority communities,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett. “The best ways we can help ensure our most vulnerable residents do not become COVID-19 statistics are to expand the availability of testing, provide it free of charge in a location accessible to our neighborhoods, and most paramount of all – continue to practice social distancing.”

National data recently published by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates a nationwide trend of minority communities severely impacted by COVID-19. The new testing initiative will expand the availability of public health data for Marion County, allowing policymakers better guidance when establishing the steps necessary to slow the spread of infection, especially in higher-risk neighborhoods.

“Tracking the demographic data of COVID-19’s impact and targeting testing to those most at risk is sound science and sound policy. It sets Indianapolis on a path that will help us protect those most vulnerable to this virus, provide healthcare access to those who need it, and, in doing so, guard against further spread of COVID-19 across our city,” said City-County Council President Vop Osili.

Residents who develop symptoms of the Coronavirus including fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath can call 317-221-5515 or visit A survey will be live on this website soon, and residents will need to complete the registration and health screening to receive an appointment before visiting the testing location. All COVID-19 tests conducted at Eastern Star Church will be conducted by appointment only. This site will be managed by Virgil R. Madden, Marion County Public Health Department COVID-19 Site Incident Commander and Director of Civic Engagement.

“We’re incredibly thankful for this opportunity to partner with the City of Indianapolis, Marion County Health Department and Dr. Virginia Caine to host COVID-19 testing for residents in the Arlington Woods neighborhood,” said Eastern Star Church Senior Pastor Jeffrey A. Johnson, Sr. “It’s such a blessing because residents in this area have been identified as having a greater risk of complications from the virus due to disparities in healthcare. The ROCK Initiative was launched to address these types of inequities and we appreciate Dr. Caine and Mayor Joe Hogsett coming alongside us at such a critical time.”

According to the CDC, if residents test positive for COVID-19, they must:

Anyone in the community calling 9-1-1 is asked to be forthright with the dispatcher about any flu-like issues they, or any member of their family, may be experiencing – even if the dispatcher does not ask specifically. Residents should meet responders at the door or on the front porch, if they are able. This allows for a quick assessment in an open area and helps reduce risk of unnecessary exposure.

Residents and affected workers impacted by COVID-19 restrictions should visit the city’s resource guide, which can be viewed at Spanish speaking residents can view the resource guide here. Individuals who are unable to navigate the city’s website can call 317-327-4MAC between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. to talk to a customer service representative. Those in need of non-emergency police services should call 317-327-3811. Residents not currently experiencing an emergency who have questions about COVID-19 are asked to call 1-877-826-0011.