Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday that people without symptoms should continue to get tested for COVID-19, despite new guidelines put out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week.
“I very strongly disagree with what the CDC put out saying that there should not be testing of people without symptoms,” the mayor said.
The CDC changed its COVID-19 testing guidelines to say some people without symptoms may not need to be tested, even if they’ve been in close contact with someone who has the virus. Previously, the CDC had said testing was appropriate for people with recent or suspected exposure, even if they were asymptomatic.
“This is a devastating virus. Never forget that,” Garcetti said. “If it doesn’t kill you, it can leave you with long-term damage.”
L.A. was the first big city to offer widespread testing to non-symptomatic people, the mayor said, allowing 30% of cases to be caught that way.
“Often it’s those silent spreaders that have done the most damage,” he said. “We will not stop providing tests for those who don’t have symptoms.”
The change in federal testing guidelines was a result of pressure from the upper ranks of the Trump administration, a federal health official said, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key White House coronavirus task force member, said he was not part of the meeting when the new guidelines were discussed.
L.A. County public health officials said Wednesday that the COVID-19 case rate has continued to drop and is now at fewer than 200 cases per 100,000 residents. And, the mayor said COVID-19 hospitalizations are at an all-time low since the beginning of the pandemic.
But health officials continue to stress the importance of maintaining physical distance, regular hand-washing and wearing masks to help slow the spread of the virus until there is a vaccine.
A new vaccine trial is coming to L.A. County, officials announced Wednesday, and those interested in participating can sign up online.
And, the city of L.A. is working to accelerate research into rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests, which will dramatically ramp up testing capacity, according to Garcetti.
The county reported 1,642 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 235,286. Additionally 58 new deaths were reported, raising the death toll countywide to 5,663.
Garcetti also announced Wednesday that Los Angeles would make all city services contactless and digital.
“This directive is a critical step to not only modernize government, but to keep us safe as we open up city services, or the city services that have stayed open and they don’t put you at risk,” the mayor said. “So this is about saving time and money. This is about keeping you safe and healthy. And this is about increasing the quality and reimagination of the service you get from the city.”
City officials are working on creating a universal login for services including payment, direct assistance, public counter permits and library services.
Garcetti also said last week that the L.A. Al Fresco program that provides outdoor dining permits will be extended through the end of 2020.