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Diana Garcia-Burns, left, East Chicago’s Department of Health Director talks with a nurse

Every Covid-19 test counts, whether positive or negative

Contributed By:The 411 News

East Chicago's testing and contact tracing slows Covid-19 hospital admissions and deaths

East Chicago's Health Department saw a 38 percent jump in positive Covid-19 cases over the last week. Seventy more than the 183 reported on May 11.

"That's the advantage of having a health department in our city during this coronavirus pandemic," said Diana Garcia-Burns, Director of the East Chicago Health Dept. "Those 70 new cases were identified from recent testings at 3 sites in the city."

Testing is key to fighting the disease and its spread. Every Covid-19 test counts, whether negative or positive ... and the more people tested, the better.

Covid-19 is a respiratory disease like the flu, but more infectious and deadlier for certain segments of our society, especially those with other major health problems. Public health officials know some disease carriers don't get sick, who then spread the disease to others.

In the U.S., the count is up to 1.5 million infections and 92,387 deaths, the highest in the world.

The faces of those with the disease in the U.S. mirror those around the globe. Most susceptible and likely to develop severe complications for treatment of the disease are the elderly and those who have heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or hypertension, asthma, cancer, lung disease, or are obese.

When the U.S. began collecting racial data on the spread of the virus, it found blacks and Hispanics were impacted more by the disease mostly due to disparities in health and income. East Chicago has a majority-minority population of blacks and Hispanics.

Younger and healthier people who get infected and may show symptoms have stronger immune systems and can fight off the disease.

A negative test means a clean bill of health.

A positive test means more work for the health department and its contact tracers. "Our nurses are doing the tracing, along with performing their regular duties of examinations and immunizations," said Garcia-Burns, who also is doing contact tracing.

Their job is to question the persons who tested positive about their personal contacts over the last two weeks. They'll start with the family members in the home. Next, who else have they been in close contact with in the neighborhood, at work, and elsewhere?

Even though contact tracing is done over the phone, Garcia-Burns said it is labor intensive. "We explain to the contacts that someone they know has tested positive for the virus and we ask them to come in and get tested. When those in close proximity turn up negative, that's a good thing."

Most of the virus transmissions in East Chicago were traced to the home with a small number in work settings.

Those that test positive and are not sick are asked to isolate inside their homes. Garcia-Burns said residents in her city are making isolation work, "because most people don't want to harm their family members. We can see that our hospital admissions for Covid-19 have gone down and the number of covid deaths has not increased."

The City of East Chicago’s website devotes a section to Covid-19 data. It shows the number of cases in East Chicago, demographics, and links to outside resources including a guide on how to keep the home clean and safe for the flu and the coronavirus.

The page also includes a guide to local testing sites.

A new 3-day, drive-thru free testing center for Indiana residents will be held at Hammond's Morton High School, 6915 Grand Blvd., from May 21-May 23, Thursday through Saturday. To get tested, show a valid Indiana driver's license or a state issued ID.

Story Posted:05/20/2020

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