Los Angeles County has expanded coronavirus testing availability to any county resident who shows symptoms of a coronavirus infection, rather than only those most vulnerable to the disease, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Monday.
Garcetti, who spoke at a Monday press briefing, said the county’s testing capacity has expanded to a point where any county resident who shows symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, can get tested at any of the 13 testing sites in the county.
“That doesn’t mean we’ll have a test for everybody tomorrow,” Garcetti said, “but it means that our capacity is now greater than the number (of eligible residents) that we are getting through the requirements that we had.”
The county initially reserved testing for those most vulnerable to the disease as the United States experienced a shortage of coronavirus testing kits. Previous restrictions narrowed eligibility for the tests to symptomatic patients who are either 65 or older or have underlying health conditions.
Those who had more than seven days left of a government-mandated two-week quarantine were also eligible under the old guidelines, even if they did not show symptoms.
Most experts agree that early widespread testing is crucial to containing the coronavirus, which can spread asymptomatically.
Expansion of testing comes as LA County’s Department of Public Health announced 15 new coronavirus-related deaths Monday, bringing the death toll to 147. More than 6,300 county residents have tested positive for the coronavirus.
However, the county has not released information on how many people have recovered from a coronavirus infection. Garcetti said the mixture of public and private institutions carrying out the tests makes tracking recovery figures difficult.
New testing methods may help collect this data. Researchers at Stanford University started implementing a newly developed antibody test Friday. Antibody tests, which look for the body’s immune response to the virus in blood, differ from conventional nose swab tests in that they can test for the coronavirus after remission.
Garcetti said he does not expect them to be available in Los Angeles in the coming weeks because universities and commercial labs are sending their first batches of antibody tests to the East Coast, where the pandemic has devastated areas such as New York City.