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The city’s mayor says it is the first major city in the U.S. to do so. Even people without symptoms can get a test.
Los Angeles will become the first large city in the U.S. to offer coronavirus testing to all local residents, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms of the illness the virus causes, Mayor Eric Garcetti said on Wednesday.
Testing will be available for free at eight sites to any resident of Los Angeles County, according to Garcetti’s office. About 10 million people live in the county. The virus testing program in the Los Angeles area involves partnerships between the city, the county and a nonprofit organization, and has completed about 140,000 tests since March 20.
“As long as this disease takes lives, we must test,” Garcetti said during a news conference. "Moving forward in the city of Los Angeles, you'll be able to, whether you have symptoms or not, get tested."
Broad testing programs are seen as one of the key steps towards rolling back the stay-at-home restrictions and business closures that have been imposed around the country as part of efforts to control Covid-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease the coronavirus causes. But ramping up widespread testing has proven to be a significant challenge.
One of the problems that the virus poses is that people who have it, and may be contagious, do not necessarily show symptoms, so they can spread it unknowingly.
Garcetti said the city’s drive-thru testing centers have generally been able to get test results back in 24 to 48 hours, but that it sometimes takes longer. Other tests that have been used for senior citizens and the homeless also can take longer, but usually under a week, he said.
People can schedule an appointment for a test through an online portal that the city and county have set up.
The mayor’s office said same-day or next-day tests will be prioritized for people showing symptoms of Covid-19 and for medical professionals or other workers who are regularly exposed to people who could have the illness.
As of Thursday morning, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health data showed that of the 139,497 coronavirus tests administered there, 19,691, or 14%, were positive. The county has confirmed at least 21,500 local cases of Covid-19, as well as at least 987 deaths.
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Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.