Los Angeles City And County Offer Free Coronavirus Testing To All Residents

Scott Neuman,

Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

Members of the Los Angeles Fire Department wear protective equipment as they conduct a novel coronavirus test on a woman, left, in Los Angeles earlier this month. The City of Los Angeles, in partnership with Los Angeles County, will offer free coronavirus testing to all residents regardless of whether they have symptoms.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday that all city and county residents who want a coronavirus test can now get one for the first time since COVID-19 cases began appearing there in January.

The announcement, which makes Los Angeles the first major city to offer free testing to all its residents, came on the same day that county health officials reported a surge in the number of new COVID-19 cases, which they attributed in part to more widespread testing.

The Los Angeles County Health Department confirmed another 1,541 cases — its largest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic. It also reported 56 additional deaths due to the coronavirus.

Health officials say despite the uptick, the rate of hospitalization and death in the county has remained steady. Los Angeles County now has a total of nearly 22,500 confirmed cases — accounting for nearly half of California’s more than 46,000.

Until now, due to a scarcity of test kits, only people showing symptoms of COVID-19, essential workers and those in institutional settings, such as nursing homes, could receive a test in Los Angeles.

Garcetti’s announcement could be a significant milestone, because health officials say without widespread testing they are unable to accurately track the spread of the disease. That information could then be used to determine when it is safe to ease stay-at-home orders.

Now, any L.A. city or county resident who wants a test can make an appointment and get one at one of dozens of testing sites in the area, the mayor said at a news conference on Wednesday.

But he added that people showing symptoms would still be given priority for testing.

Garcetti said Los Angeles currently accounts for roughly 9% of all the tests nationwide.

NPR’s Adrian Florido in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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