County officials announced an expansion of COVID-19 testing this week with a network of 29 facilities offering free, same-day tests for all county residents who have COVID-19 symptoms.
COVID-19, the disease that results from the coronavirus, can cause fevers, coughing and difficulty breathing. Officials said that to ensure testing resources are used appropriately, only people with symptoms are eligible for testing at the drive or walk-up facilities in the county.
In Santa Monica, 107 people have tested positive for coronavirus, with seven new cases announced Friday after several days of slower growth. The number of local confirmed cases has grown 19% over the last seven days, with each week since the beginning of the outbreak displaying a progressively slower rate of growth.
“The testing capacity that we’ve been able to bring to Los Angeles County rivals the capacity of virtually any country in the world,” said Dr. Clayton Kazan, medical director for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. “While we knew that we would not be able to put a center on every corner or in every city, we have achieved the point where testing is accessible to the vast majority of our communities.”
Kazan acknowledged challenges in ramping up the testing efforts, specifically with developing a local testing network, but he said the local test sites are now connected to several Los Angeles area testing labs which means local tests do not need to be shipped to national laboratories where the testing results could compete with kits submitted by other states.
“I think now we’ve tapped into a really great resource,” he said of the local labs.
Testing at the new sites is based on symptoms and tests are available to symptomatic people regardless of their immigration status, insurance, age or underlying health issues.
Appointments are necessary for the testing and the process can be found online at lacovidprod.service-now.com/rrs.
Residents seeking a test must answer a series of qualifying questions before securing an appointment at a test site.
People with no access to the Internet can dial 2-1-1 for help making an appointment.
While some sites are described as “drive-up” they can accommodate pedestrians but everyone, whether in a car or on foot, must have an appointment.
Los Angeles County is also in the midst of an effort to track the spread of the COVID-19 infection through analysis of blood tests, known as serology.
Individuals who successfully fight off any infection develop antibodies within their blood that are tied to the specific disease. By looking for COVID-19 antibodies in local residents, officials hope to form a more accurate picture of the total number of infections given the official numbers are so far derived only from individuals who felt ill enough to seek out a doctor.
“Many more people have been infected with COVID-19 than those being captured through our testing and identification of people who are testing positive for COVID- 19,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “That is a reflection I think of two issues that we’ve faced across the county, one is the slow start for testing and one is the fact for many people they may exhibit either no symptoms or mild symptoms, and they’re not going ahead and getting testing, they may not be even seeking medical care.”
She said the true mortality rate will likely be far less than the 4.3% reported today.
Results of that study will be available next week but Ferrer said that in the meantime, locals should continue to stay inside where possible and anyone going outside should maintain their distance from other people while still wearing a mask.
“Safer at home is still in place and it’s important that everyone continue to follow the directives that are contained within the health officer order,” she said. “This means staying at home as much as possible, and if you must be out for essential services, as a reminder, you’re required to wear a clean cloth face covering and maintain your physical distance of six feet or more.”
She said these efforts are important to protect individuals who are essential workers, including health care employees on the front lines.
“These workers, all of them, help all of us when we are sick and they are heroes, and we can’t thank our health care workers and front line workers enough for all the work they are doing,” she said.
Officials confirmed 40 new deaths and 567 cases of coronavirus throughout the county, bringing the death toll to 495 and the total number of cases to 11,391.