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Bloomington residents look forward to 'gold standard' swabs available at new COVID-19 testing site



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The Indiana National Guard Armory, located on 3880 S. Walnut St. in Bloomington, is conducting COVID-19 testing. There are no prerequisites needed for testing. Abbie Gressley

A new testing site in Bloomington will open later this month and conduct nasopharyngeal swabs, which the Indiana State Department of Health considers the gold standard in COVID-19 testing.

The Monroe County Health Department announced last week that the downtown testing site will replace the one at the National Guard Armory. Both are state-sponsored sites. The new site will be in place through June of 2021, according to a press release. There is no confirmed date the National Guard testing site will be discontinued, and the two sites may operate at the same time for at least some time, said Kathy Hewett, Monroe County Health Department health educator.

The anterior nasal swabs, being used now at the National Guard Armory, go about half an inch up the nose, according to a guide from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while a nasopharyngeal swab should reach the back of the throat via the nasal cavity.

Anterior nasal swabs are slightly less sensitive than nasopharyngeal swabs, but the Indiana State Department of Health has provided training in how to get the best sample to for an accurate result, state department of health spokesperson Megan Wade-Taxer said in an email.

“No test for COVID-19 is 100% sensitive, so we encourage anyone who gets a negative test but is symptomatic to get a follow-up test if you are concerned,” she said in the email.

Bloomington resident David Hamm, 34, said he’s been tested five times at the National Guard Armory and has gotten a nasopharyngeal swab test once elsewhere. He said it would be ideal to have the most effective test, but he appreciates how he could get tested quickly and easily in Bloomington at the armory.

“It’s better than not getting tested at all,” Hamm said. “Not getting tested is just kind of blindly hoping for the best.”

Hamm said he isn’t sure why the armory is doing anterior nasal swabs instead of nasopharyngeal swabs. He said it might have to do with availability of the nasopharyngeal tests. Wade-Taxerdidn’t respond to a question about whether there is a shortage in nasopharyngeal tests in her email.

Hamm said he believes there will be more and better resources over time.

IU junior Bethany Dillow has gotten an anterior nasal swab at the National Guard Armory, a nasopharyngeal swab in Brown County and several saliva tests through IU’s mitigation testing program. She said she didn’t know why the National Guard Armory is doing the slightly less effective tests.

“I would like to have a little more information about it, but also my expectations are really that it’s some sort of test and the procedures are safe,” Dillow said. “But I am curious to know what the reasoning behind that is.”

Dillow said she understands some people’s concern about getting false negative results from less effective tests such as the spit test and the anterior nasal swab test, but she isn’t worried about it for herself because she follows health guidelines and gets tested regularly.

Bloomington resident Hannah Tyler, 22, has gotten both a nasopharyngeal swab test as well as multiple anterior nasal swab tests at the National Guard Armory. She said she isn’t concerned about the slight difference in effectiveness, but she’s glad the new site will do nasopharyngeal swabs.

“If we have enough supplies, then that’s great,” Tyler said.

She said she wants to encourage everyone to get tested regularly, and people should know nasopharyngeal swabs aren’t as uncomfortable as some might think.

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