Garcetti announces meal service for L.A. seniors, highlights USC partnership for antibody testing to determine COVID-19 immunity

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti highlighted a partnership for antibody testing between the city, the University of Southern California, the L.A. County Department of Public Health and Lieberman Research Worldwide during his briefing Wednesday.

USC’s Price School of Public Policy has partnered with the public health department to conduct serology tests on 1,000 randomly selected individuals to find out how many have antibodies to COVID-19, a potentially critical step in relaxing stay-at-home restrictions, according to officials.

“The data that they are gathering will absolutely help us determine just how contagious and deadly the virus is so that our hospitals, public officials and public can plan accordingly,” USC President Carol Folt said as she joined the mayor’s briefing.

The study aims to track asymptomatic people who were never diagnosed, which will be vital in guiding public health and policy decisions, Dr. Neeraj Sood, the Price School’s vice dean for research and university lead on the study, said.

“The true goal of the study is to really understand the extent of the virus today, and to trace it over time,” Sood said during the briefing.

Six sites were chosen across the county to conduct the antibody testing last Friday and Saturday.

There is not yet access to immunity testing for the general public and it will take time to determine whether the antibody testing gives an accurate picture, according to Dr. Paul Simon of the county’s Department of Public Health.

“An imperfect test works fine in a research study… but when you’re dealing with an individual patient, you have to be right,” Simon said. “I’m very concerned that quality of the tests are highly variable.”

Mayor Garcetti also announced Emergency Senior Meals Response program Wednesday, a free meal delivery service for residents of the city of L.A. who are age 60 and over. Through a partnership with Everytable, the city will provide 10 meals per week for over 12,000 seniors living in the city. Residents can call 213-263-5226 to sign up 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday.

The meals will be delivered by Access, which typically provides transportation for people with disabilities.

Under normal circumstances, the city’s Department of Aging provides meals to low-income seniors every day, which seniors usually pick up at community centers. This service will “bridge the gap for these seniors and others,” the mayor said, and will help “make sure they are safe from COVID-19, and that doesn’t come with the cost of receiving food.”

In response to a question from KTLA, the mayor said the city is finalizing a measure with FEMA and state officials to work with restaurants to provide meals those in need, but added that they are not yet ready to announce the details.

Earlier Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that during a briefing with other city leaders, Garcetti said that large gatherings such as concerts and sporting events may be halted until 2021.

“I know they will be sooner the more that we take these actions,” Garcetti said at the briefing, adding that he would love to see athletes playing again by the end of the year, even if it’s without a live audience.

Earlier this week, the Angeleno Card was launched to provide a prepaid debit card with up to $1,500 for families in need and by Wednesday, 292,351 people had applied, exceeding the amount of funds available, the mayor said.

“It just speaks to the need, and I hope that our federal government is listening too,” he said.

On Tuesday, the mayor announced that Metro will run with a modified schedule and that relaxed parking rules will be in place throughout the stay-at-home order.

For the second day in a row Wednesday, L.A. County set a record for highest number of daily deaths, bringing the total number of deaths countywide to 402 and the total number of positive cases to 10,496, official said.

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