Rapid COVID testing site opens at LAX international terminal amid omicron concerns

Local news

Los Angeles County on Friday opened a rapid coronavirus testing site at the international terminal of LAX, a day after health officials reported the county’s first detected case of the omicron variant.

The new site will offer voluntary antigen testing to international travelers, and workers will let them know that they must comply with the federal quarantine and testing guidance, L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a news conference Thursday.

Those tested will be able to receive their results before leaving the airport. Travelers that end up testing positive will be required to isolate, and people who have had close contact with them will be asked to quarantine.

Others who test negative will be sent home with a test kit so they can test themselves again three to five days later.

Similarly, beginning Wednesday in Orange County, free coronavirus self-test kits will be distributed to travelers at John Wayne Airport.

The Centers for Control and Prevention currently recommends that travelers get tested three to five days after arriving in the U.S.

“I think that provides security to them, as well, that they know that they can go ahead and gather with the people they were planning to gather with, go to their final destination with some safety,” Ferrer said.

The new rapid testing site will be located at Tom Bradley International Terminal’s lower arrivals level and travelers can access it after going through the baggage claim area.

L.A. County on Thursday reported its first known case of the omicron variant.

The patient, a fully vaccinated resident, had returned to the county after travel to South Africa on Nov. 22. officials said the infection was most likely travel-related.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have always known there would be more mutations, resulting in the possibility of a more dangerous variant than the Delta variant,” Ferrer said in a statement. “While we can’t know for certain the impact of Omicron at this time, the good news is that we already know how to reduce transmission and slow spread using both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions.”

The omicron variant, which has been found in several countries, was first identified by scientists in South Africa and designated a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.

The worrisome new variant, which carries mutations that may impact infectiousness, prompted swift travel restrictions across international borders.

The Biden administration enacted travel bans on arrivals from eight nations in southern Africa.

And starting Monday, all inbound international travelers will be required to test within one day of departure for the U.S. — regardless of nationality or vaccination status.

The new wave of travel restrictions come as work gets underway to determine whether the new variant is more contagious, more deadly or resistant to vaccines.

L.A. County’s health director encouraged residents to get COVID-19 vaccine boosters and get tested if they feel sick or have recently traveled or participated in a gathering. Residents are also advised to mask up indoors and at large mega events.

The discovery of the omicron variant in L.A. County came a day after it was found in San Francisco, marking the first detected case of the new variant in the U.S.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday said there’s no indication the state could see more shutdowns, and urged residents not to panic.

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