As mass gatherings in the streets across Los Angeles County spark concern of a spike in cases, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Thursday said all publicly run testing sites in the county would reopen Friday.
About half of the 36 sites operated by the city and county were closed Monday, with the massive screening center at Dodger Stadium and a walk-up site at Kedren Community Health Center the only locations open in the city of L.A. But residents can now visit coronavirus.lacity.org/testing to schedule an appointment for free testing at any of the sites.
More than 30,000 people have been tested so far this week countywide, according to Garcetti. Last week, he said the sites have the capacity to test more than 25,000 people each day.
Garcetti had said the sites closed because volunteers weren’t signing up to run them amid the protests that intensified Saturday.
News of the screening centers’ reopening comes as county public health officials reported 44 new coronavirus-related deaths and more than 1,450 new cases Thursday. Officials said the large number of new cases is due to a lag from one lab that reported more than 500 positive results.
The county has now confirmed a total of nearly 60,000 cases, resulting in 2,531 deaths. This remains more than half of all 118,000 cases and 4,361 deaths reported statewide.
Currently another 1,457 people are battling the virus at hospitals across L.A. County, 30% of them in intensive care and 21% on ventilators.
It’s still too early to tell what impact the past week’s protests will have on the virus’ spread in the county — especially since access to testing was limited.
Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for the county, says she expects it will take three to four weeks for the impact to show. She reminded people who attended a rally that it could be two weeks before their infection is apparent.
“If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 while out and in large crowds, because you were in close contact for at least 15 minutes with people who were not wearing face coverings, please remember that the virus has a long incubation period and it will be important to remain away from others as much as possible for 14 days,” she said in a statement.
If you test negative for COVID-19 right after being exposed, it doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. You could still become infected toward the end of the two-week window, Ferrer said.
Public health officials also advised anyone who’s been in a public crowd to consider any elderly or immunocompromised people they may live with. If possible, stay 6 feet away from them, wear a face covering around them, and avoid sharing food, utensils or other household goods, Ferrer said.
Officials say the best protection against the virus is still frequent handwashing, avoiding touching your face, physical distancing and, when feeling sick, self-isolation.