Los Angeles opens coronavirus testing to anyone, not just people most at risk

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Testing for coronavirus will no longer be limited to the most vulnerable populations, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced during Monday’s daily COVID-19 response address. 

Tests will still be limited to those who show symptoms, but any Los Angeles County resident can apply for testing, independent of where they live.

The eligibility is being widened because this “is a make-or-break week for us all to keep the momentum going and to ensure that we have the ability to continue to flatten the curve that will ensure we save the lives of loved ones,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said during his daily coronavirus briefing.

The city has the capacity to test 18,000 people this week, and Garcetti said the county and other partners will be able to conduct an additional 18,000 tests for a total of 36,000 by the end of this week.

“That doesn’t mean we’ll have a test for everybody tomorrow,” Garcetti said. “It means our capacity is now greater than the number (of people) that we were getting through the requirements that we had.”

Prior to the announcement, only Los Angeles residents 65 years and older, or with underlying health conditions or showing symptoms of COVID-19 could apply for the tests under the auspices of the city.

A nonprofit organization led by Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn is also helping to provide volunteers at testing sites around Los Angeles to relieve firefighters and first responders. Community Organized Relief Effort, or CORE, is providing the testing services for free.

People can apply for testing at coronavirus.lacity.org.

The Los Angeles Convention Center will start admitting patients next week, as it has been turned into a field hospital with about 250 beds to help treat coronavirus patients, Garcetti said.

There are 1,116 available hospital beds throughout Los Angeles County for coronavirus patients as well as 380 ICU beds and 1,012 ventilators, capacities that have all increased since last week, Garcetti said.

There are 6,360 people in Los Angeles County who have tested positive for the coronavirus, health officials said Monday.

There were 192 new cases diagnosed among Los Angeles residents Monday, increasing its total to 2,851, a 7% daily increase.

Garcetti said those numbers are encouraging because this was the first day in a few weeks there was not a double-digit percentage increase in coronavirus cases among Los Angeles residents.

Test results are coming back within two to three days from the county’s labs, whereas in private labs health care workers were “so overwhelmed” it took about a week or longer to get them back, Garcetti said.

Garcetti was joined by Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas and Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore at the briefing at the city’s Emergency Operations Center downtown.

Moore said since the Safer at Home orders were enacted, the city’s overall crime decreased 23% in March compared to last year.

Terrazas said the LAFD’s overall emergency call volume has dropped significantly as well, indicating more people are staying home during the emergency orders.

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