Indiana contractor slow providing coronavirus test results

 
 
Updated 6/5/2020 4:50 PM

INDIANAPOLIS -- A contractor hired to expand Indiana's coronavirus testing across the state has not been meeting its target of providing results to those tested within 48 hours, the state's top health official said Friday.

The recession stemming from the pandemic contributed to state tax collections coming in $230 million, or 20%, below expectations for May, the third straight month of significant shortfalls.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

TESTING TURBULENCE

The state hired OptumServe Health Services to open 50 testing sites statewide during May, with plans to provide testing for the COVID-19 virus for 100,000 people within 30 days.

Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, said about 36,000 tests have been done by the company so far and that her agency was looking to move some of the testing sites to better locations and possibly create some mobile teams to travel to possible outbreak sites.

'We're really working to make sure we can maximize the testing that we can get through Optum,' Box said.

The company has been sending many of the samples taken to out-of-state laboratories for analysis, which has taken longer than what Box said was a typical 55-hour turnaround for in-state labs. State officials are working with OptumServe to shift more samples to closer labs, she said.

'I think that will help that timing,' Box said.

OptumServe, which is a division of insurance giant UnitedHealth Group, has a $17.9 million contract with the state for the first month of testing. Box said that contract was being renewed for a second month, which is expected to cost the state at least $21 million.

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STATE TAX WOES

Indiana's state tax revenue shortfall for last month was not as severe as the $964 million hit in April that was 44% less than officials had expected.

The state could make up some of the April gap as income tax payments that were delayed from April are now due in July, but no such recovery is anticipated for the May shortfall, said Cristopher Johnston, director of the state's Office of Management and Budget.

Sales tax collections, which are the state's largest revenue source, were down 15% for the second straight month.

'Even in tough economic times, there is usually a growth pattern with the sales tax,' Johnston said. 'But our May collections have not been at this level since 2013.'

State tax revenue was also off $70 million, or 6%, in March amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Indiana government agencies were told last month to cut spending by 15% for the coming budget year that starts in July. Officials have said the state could see a drop of more than $3 billion in tax revenue over the next 14 months of its current two-year $34 billion budget - more than the $2.3 billion in cash reserves the state has built up over several years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

MORE VIRUS DEATHS

State health officials on Friday reported an additional 27 coronavirus-related deaths in Indiana.

Those newly recorded deaths increase the state's toll from confirmed or presumed COVID-19 infections to 2,258 since the first one was reported in mid-March, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. Most of the newly reported deaths occurred Wednesday or Thursday, but others date back as far as May 11.

Indiana hospitals still had 369 COVID-19 patients in their intensive care units on Thursday, although little more than one-third of the state's ICU beds were available.

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