Asymptomatic essential workers in L.A. can get tested for coronavirus starting Thursday, mayor says

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Beginning Thursday, coronavirus testing will be available to critical workers in L.A., whether or not they have symptoms, Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

That will allow health care professionals, grocery store and pharmacy workers, first responders and critical government personnel to determine whether they are unknowingly spreading the virus, Garcetti said during Wednesday’s briefing on the city’s outbreak response.

“We wish we could open that up to everybody,” he said, adding that for now the goal is to ensure essential workers “have the peace of mind of knowing they’re healthy, and because they interact with so many people, that we can make sure that they’re not spreading.”

Essential workers should contact their employer on how to get priority testing, Garcetti said.

The move comes after L.A. County officials earlier on Wednesday announced plans to start testing asymptomatic people living and working at nursing homes.

Testing capacity has been increasing every day in L.A., which now has 34 drive-thru and walk-in testing sites countywide, Garcetti says.

The county can now test about 12,200 people a day, and by the end of this week the mayor expects about 120,000 county residents will have been tested.

Expanded testing is one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s central requirements for reopening California’s economy. The governor said Wednesday that, statewide, the average number of tests being run each day has increased from 2,000 to about 16,000 since the end of last month.

But Newsom says it’s still too soon to say when the state can begin lifting stay-at-home restrictions, and there are many more variables in the equation.

Statewide, 1,354 coronavirus-related fatalities and nearly 35,400 cases had been confirmed as of Wednesday.

In L.A. County, officials on Wednesday reported another 66 deaths and 1,318 new cases, for a total of 16,435 cases and 729 deaths.

According to new countywide projections, the number of cases among Angelenos is expected to remain steady rather than continuing to climb. Though this week has seen steep increases in reported cases, health officials say that’s due to a backlog of results being reported from independent labs.

Officials attribute the leveling off to successful social distancing, and they say continued progress will hinge on that continuing.

If current practices are relaxed, most people in the county could be infected by Aug. 1. But if everyone continues to stay at home at least as much as they have, around 11% of the population will be infected by summer, according to Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county’s director of health services.

The projection also predicts that local hospitals will continue operating beneath maximum capacity.

As of Wednesday, there were 1,791 hospitalized coronavirus patients. Meanwhile, about 1,300 beds were available, including nearly 250 in intensive care units, and 1,143 ventilators available, Garcetti said.

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