Soldiers help facilitate Fairbanks study, wave two

By Cpl. Hannah Clifton | Indiana National Guard | June 22, 2020

Indiana National Guardsmen are again assisting Indiana University researchers and the Indiana State Department of Health with the second wave of a COVID-19 study.

Hoosier Guardsmen first assisted with the ISDH and the university's Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, located in Indianapolis, during the study’s initial launch. The data gathered from the study is integral to Gov. Eric Holcomb's "Back on Track" initiative.

“This study is paramount in his decision process because he is going to use the scientifically based process to make policy decisions about the safe reopening of the state,” said Indiana National Guard 1st Sgt. Ryan Richmond, medical branch noncommissioned officer in charge. “It effects every Hoosier and his objectives and goals are to safely reopen and to monitor for the potential rebound and second wave of COVID-19.”

During the pandemic, Richmond, a Mooresville resident and Salem native, works as a liaison officer to Indiana’s Department of Health, and he is deeply involved in the Indiana National Guard’s cooperation in the study.

“The study will help determine the prevalence of corona virus within the state,” said Richmond. “The results of wave one are a finite mark in time. This study will build on wave one and will have data points that will help drive the fidelity of the data and help us understand the current infection rate and also show us through the serology study who was infected.”

In late April, researchers purposefully designed the study to be conducted in four waves, ending in April 2021. The study tests randomized groups of Hoosiers from across the state. Each test group consists of individuals who are proportionally sized to accurately represent the demographics of Indiana.

In theory, this information will give researchers a more valid set of data points to extrapolate information and measure the impact of COVID-19. The study will help indicate who is sick, who has been sick and who has a natural immune response. This data will also help researchers more accurately assess infection and mortality rates.

The Indiana National Guard continues to provide medical professionals to assist with nasal swabs and blood draws while also providing additional manpower to help with traffic control, site set up and tear down.

Indiana National Guard Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lewis works on the frontlines as a testing site senior medic.

“I love being out here and being able to help in any way we can. It just goes to show how well we can work together and get stuff done,” said Lewis.

The collective efforts among these Hoosier organizations and the research itself is incredibly important for the future of all Indiana residents. The governor and his staff are transparent in their use of data in opening the state.

Despite the pandemic, Hoosiers remain resilient as many individuals return to work and businesses begin to reopen. While this study measures the impact of COVID-19, data alone can’t measure the importance of the cooperation and dedication it takes from organizations like the Indiana National Guard, Indiana State Department of Health and IU Fairbanks, in making sure that Indiana can continue to reopen safely and swiftly.