Dr. Scott Stine and Adam Thacker, chief operations officer for Good Samaritan Hospital, say they are encouraged by information released from the first phase of a recent study conducted by the Indiana Department of Health in conjunction with the Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI.

The study, which will eventually test a random sampling of 20,000 Hoosiers for COVID-19 or its antibodies over the course of the next year, just released results from the first sampling of nearly 5,000 participants.

During his weekly Facebook live show, Stine, chief medical officer at Good Samaritan Hospital’s Physicians’ Network, said only 1.7% of Hoosier participants tested positive for the virus or its antibodies, and of that number, 44% had no symptoms at all.

So a large number of people aren't that sickened with the virus, they pointed out.

“As we roll forward into the coming months, there will be additional data that we’ll see from this,” he said. “And we’ll be making more of our decisions based on some of that data as it comes out.”

A portion of the first study was conducted here last month after a handful of locals were contacted and asked to participate; the tests were conducted at the Kimmell Crossing Shopping Center.

Thacker added the next wave of the study will be in the coming months, and another 5,000 Hoosiers will be contacted in June.

“If you get a phone call or post card, please (participate),” he said. “A lot of key decisions can be made around this study.” 

Additionally, with only one active COVID-19 case in Knox County — out of 22 total since the outbreak began — Stine and Thacker are optimistic that the area will continue to experience a loosening of restrictions on social gatherings moving into summer.

“We’ve conducted 588 tests over the course of the response, and we’re still at 22 as far as positives,” he said. “All but one is (out of) quarantine.”

The 588 tests represent less than 2% of the county population.

After two months of relative isolation, residents are becoming increasingly anxious to get out, and Stine and Thacker said they have begun fielding a lot of questions about the safety of participating in sports, large scale events and whether or not parents can resume scheduling playdates for their children.

“A lot of families have decided (to spend time with) a core group of people, and I think that’s a good policy to keep right now,” Stine said.

He added that low-contact sports, such as baseball and softball, are also relatively safe at this time.

Just over one week ago, Good Samaritan Hospital returned to full inpatient and outpatient service. Since then, Thacker says he has received a lot of questions about resuming visitor privileges at the hospital.

“We have the knowledge that having family present is important, but we’re balancing that — it’s important to keep healthcare staff, patients and others safe during this time,” said Thacker.

While Good Samaritan would like to resume some visitor privileges in early June, Thacker describes it as a “fluid situation,” saying they will continue to monitor the situation.

Though optimistic, Thacker ended the broadcast with a reminder that good hand hygiene and thoughtfulness in terms of social distancing is essential in reducing the chances of coronavirus transmission.

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