Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Monday that the county is expanding testing for the novel coronavirus by removing restrictions on who can get tested.
Any resident in the county can now apply for a test online, the mayor announced, later clarifying that people will need to have COVID-19 symptoms to actually get tested at one of the county’s free drive-up testing sites.
Previously, testing was strictly limited to those who are 65 and older, those with underlying health conditions who are showing symptoms, or patients who are subject to a mandatory two-week quarantine with more than seven days remaining due to a confirmed exposure to the virus.
Now people who don’t fit those categories but have symptoms of the respiratory illness can get a test at one of the county’s testing sites— though people who are over 65 or have underlying conditions will still have priority.
Health care workers and first responders also get priority.
“This doesn’t mean we will have a test for everybody tomorrow, but it means that our capacity is now greater than the number we were getting through the requirements that we had,” the mayor said. “Sign up today, see if you can get a test.”
After a slow start, officials have worked on ramping up COVID-19 testing, going from one to 13 county testing sites in two weeks, according to the mayor.
Public health experts have emphasized that people who do not show symptoms should not be tested. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, a cough and shortness of breath, and may appear between two to 14 days after exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Getting more people tested will help us get Angelenos the care they need and flatten the curve more quickly to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Garcetti said a statement.
Health officials have warned that coronavirus infections will peak in the coming two weeks.
“This will be a critical week in our fight against this crisis,” Garcetti said Monday.
As of Sunday, more than 32,000 people had been tested across the county and 14% of them were positive, though that number may be inflated because labs may not be reporting all negative cases, Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, said.
Officials expect that L.A. County will be on track to complete a total of 36,000 tests through county sites and providers by the end of the week, Garcetti said.
The total number of COVID-19 patients in L.A. County climbed to 6,360 with 147 deaths Monday, authorities said. Garcetti said 2,851 of the cases were in the city of L.A.
Statewide, over 16,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus and 385 had died as of Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times’ tally.