L.A. County secures 20,000 new coronavirus tests as 2 COVID-19 deaths, 128 new cases reported

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Another two coronavirus-related deaths and 128 new cases were reported Monday in Los Angeles County as officials announced thousands of new coronavirus testing kits were secured for first responders and healthcare workers.

One of the people who died was a Glendale resident older than 65 years old who had underlying health conditions. The other person was between 30 to 50 years old, according to L.A. County Department of Public Health.

L.A. County has had 536 confirmed COVID-19 cases and seven deaths. The cases include 17 in Long Beach and three in Pasadena, which both have their own health agencies, the health department's director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said.

Ninety COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized across the county.

Ferrer said 80% of the patients who have tested positive are between 18 and 65 years old, with the majority being under 45 years old.

As of Sunday, 4,700 people were tested for the coronavirus in L.A. County and 10% of them tested positive, according to Ferrer.

Officials announced that the county is getting 20,000 new test kits from a South Korean company, Seegene Technologies, for $1.25 million. The amount was paid for with county funds and discretionary funds from L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez and Councilman David Ryu.

The new tests will be rolled out to first responders and healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic, and the county is working on getting more, according to Ryu.

After the initial 20,000 tests, Seegene has committed to provide L.A. with 100,000 every week, officials said.

The tests will be provided free of charge, county officials said.

After first responders and health care workers get access to the new tests, the county will focus on directing tests to vulnerable populations. After that, officials will make sure that doctors can get them to their patients, L.A. County Fire Department medical director Dr. Clayton Kazan said.

The end goal is to have widespread access to testing across L.A. County so that members of the general public can get tested, Kazan said.

“One of our most immediate needs has been to ramp up testing capabilities throughout Los Angeles County,” County Board of Supervisors Board Chair Kathryn Barger said. “The announcement of these contracts opens up the opportunity for us to vastly scale up testing and then with proper diagnosis we can work to treat those patients who test positive."

But even as testing increases, the county still faces shortages of other supplies like gloves and swabs.

Martinez urged Southern California manufacturers to shift their production lines to help make the supplies needed to complete testing.

“Please work with us to address this crisis,” she told companies.

Ferrer said that though she's thrilled with the increase of test kits, the county still has limited access to testing and that means that adhering to social distancing requirements remains very important.

She urged those with symptoms who can't get tested to stay home and isolate themselves from others for at least seven days and until they have been symptom-free for 72 hours.

"We all need to operate with the assumption that there are COVID-19 positive people anywhere, and we all have the potential to infect others or become infected," Ferrer said.

L.A. county is also working on securing contracts with private and public labs that can run COVID-19 testing and finding more manufacturers to get more supplies.

Councilman Ryu reminded Angelenos that with more testing, there will be an increase in coronavirus cases being reported and this doesn’t mean more people are being infected. 

The city recently set up an online portal where high-risk residents can sign up to get tested for COVID-19.

A Navy hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, departed San Diego Monday and is expected to arrive at the Port of Los Angeles "within a week," said Cmdr. John Fage, a public affairs officer for the fleet. The ship will provide another 1,000 much-needed hospital beds as hospitals brace for a flood of patients amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"This step will save lives," L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

Although the ship's trip to Los Angeles would usually take hours, the crew will carry out tasks while at sea to "ensure a safe hospital environment," Fage said.

Coronavirus had killed at least 27 people and infected 1,733 across the state as of Sunday, according to the California Department of Public Health. Most of the COVID-19 patients in the state are between the ages of 18 to 49 years old.

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