With availability for coronavirus testing expected to stay limited over the next few weeks, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday told residents not to get tested just to go to gatherings.
“A test is not a passport to party,” the mayor said in his Wednesday briefing. “More people are getting sick, supply chains are getting constrained — So we’re asking you to be responsible, even as we offer these tests to all folks with and without symptoms.”
Guidance from the L.A. County Department of Public Health calls for testing to be prioritized for people who have symptoms, those who think they’ve been exposed or who are essential workers or work in high-risk environments.
The city of L.A. opened up testing at its sites to people without COVID-19 symptoms in April, but the mayor said symptomatic and high-risk residents are prioritized for appointments.
“We’re receiving reports that people are getting tested so that they can just go out and hang out. That’s not what these tests are for,” Garcetti said. “A COVID test isn’t an excuse to break the rules and engage in social social gatherings outside your house.”
The mayor said people shouldn’t treat a test as if it can prevent infection. “Stop wasting these tests, stop doing those things, and make sure that that can help us expand that capacity back,” he said.
No testing appointments are available for the rest of this week across the county and city’s sites, county’s director of health services Dr. Christina Ghaly said Wednesday, explaining that there’s been a surge in demand for tests.
While testing access is not being limited by a shortage in test kits, Ghaly said the supply chain in the county may become increasingly constrained as other states ramp up their capacity.
A four-day closure of the city’s massive Dodger Stadium site over the Fourth of July weekend likely also constricted testing availability.
“I think there are a lot of conspiracy theories about why things were closed,” Garcetti said. “We only close things down when we don’t have enough volunteers to show up.”
While free testing is available at dozens of sites countywide, public health officials have been pushing residents to seek tests at clinics, community health centers and CVS pharmacy sites.
In California, all public and commercial insurance plans were directed to cover the entire cost for all medically necessary screening and testing for the coronavirus back in March.
Ghaly said the county is working to set up around eight more testing sites in the next two or three weeks in poorer communities and in other areas hit hardest by the pandemic.
The low availability for testing comes at a time when L.A. County is grappling with a surge in coronavirus infections, increased hospitalization for COVID-19 and facing a potential spike in deaths.
So far, about 1.2 million people have been tested at L.A. county and city sites — with 9% of all people testing positive.
As of Wednesday, L.A. County had recorded a total of 123,004 infections with 3,642 deaths.