On Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that free COVID-19 coronavirus tests would be available to Los Angeles County Residents, becoming the first major city and county in the United States to do so.
Citizens exhibiting symptoms would be given priority but Mayor Garcetti confirmed that all residents would be able to sign up and get tested. Testing was made available late Wednesday night, with residents being allowed to test as many times as needed.
“Tonight, I am proud to announce that Los Angeles will become the first major city in America to offer wide-scale testing to all of its residents, with or without symptoms,” said Mayor Garcetti at the Wednesday press conference. “We have the capacity so don’t wait, don’t wander and don’t risk infecting others. If you feel you need a test, get one. If you want to be safe, get one.”
While there was some early confusions as to whether testing was only for city residents or for county residents, the Mayor quickly reconfirmed over Twitter that the free testing applies to all county residents.
Free COVID-19 testing is available to any L.A. County resident. https://t.co/13jZaOOegy
— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) April 30, 2020
Mayor Garcetti and the city and county of Los Angeles made the decision for countywide free testing because of several health and logistical factors. Tuesday’s county coronavirus statistics, which included a new daily high of 1,541 new cases and 56 recorded deaths helped spur the testing decision. Calls by minority groups and homeless advocates for more testing were also factored into the decision, as were suggestions by healthcare experts to increase testing to help corral the virus.
But by far the largest reason was because Los Angeles had made testing extremely efficient. As noted by the Mayor on Wednesday, the 34 current testing sites around the city can test 18,000 people a day and get results back to residents within 48 hours. Even though over 140,000 have been tested this way so far, everyday has had many leftover test kits at each testing station. Free testing would not only help public health as a whole and zero in on who needs treatment and who needs to be quarantined, but it would also keep up demand for tests with the available supply.
“We’re going to see cases rise even higher now,” noted nurse Lisa Brahms, who has assisted in coronavirus testing. “But that’s not a bad thing. We’ve been seeing people coming in and dying because they didn’t think they had it and waited too long. This will save lives.”
“And if we’re going to reopen soon, this is good for those who want that. This way people will know if they still need to self-quarantine or not and if they still need to socially distance. It’s an important step to reopen.”
“It saves lives, it will help reopen the city and county faster, it will gradually reduce cases, and everyone, including those out of work who had been holding back on a doctor’s visit for a test, can know.”
Currently 9% of all tests nationwide come from LA County, with the number expected to rise due to the expanded free testing.