After expanding free coronavirus testing to county residents without symptoms, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday those people won’t be able to get an appointment until next week after slots filled up.
On Wednesday, Garcetti opened up city testing sites to anyone in the county who wants to get a test. But as of Friday afternoon, the appointment portal at coronavirus.lacity.org/testing displayed a message stating there was no availability for those without symptoms.
Garcetti said during his virus briefing Friday evening that appointments for asymptomatic people are fully booked for Saturday and Monday, but appointments later into next week should open up soon.
“I encourage people to check back during the day, because those usually open up towards the afternoon,” he said. “We’re very confident we can keep up with the demand that has been out there.”
But the mayor on Thursday said he expanded testing — even though county officials weren’t ready to do the same at their sites — because the city testing locations weren’t operating at capacity.
City-run locations can test up to 12,000 people a day, setting aside about 5,000 for those with symptoms, 4,300 for front-line workers and 3,000 for asymptomatic people, Garcetti said.
Garcetti has also said he thinks everyone in the county should get tested, considering evidence of asymptomatic people spreading the virus. But county officials have said they’re following a different tactic, trying to target those who are more at risk and likely to have been exposed.
Garcetti cautioned that those who test negative should still wear face coverings in public, physically distance themselves from others and wash their hands as much as possible.
“Each test only tells you if you had COVID-19 the moment it was administered,” he said. “If you get tested and don’t have COVID-19 today, that doesn’t mean you won’t get the virus in the future, and it doesn’t mean that you haven’t had it any the past.”
Densely populated L.A. County has become the epicenter of California’s outbreak, accounting for nearly half of the 50,442 cases reported statewide and more than half of the state’s 2,073 virus-related deaths.
Friday was the county’s sixth-highest day for new cases, and fourth highest day for fatalities. And we still have yet to cross the peak of the curve, considering 5,883 cases were added county last week compared to 7,301 this week.
In the city of L.A., 690 new cases were reported Friday, a 6% increase from the day before, for a total of 11,553 confirmed cases.
But while case numbers aren’t decreasing, Garcetti says social distancing measures are working.
“Our curve is flattening because you have made very difficult sacrifices, because you have stayed safer at home,” he said.
As a sign of that, the mayor pointed to the average number of people infected after one Angeleno catches the virus. He said the city’s infection rate was previous between 4 and 5, but it’s declined nearly to 1.
Although 1 in 5 people diagnosed with the virus countywide are hospitalized, the mayor said hospitals are still operating under capacity, with about 1,1,70 beds and 1,210 ventilators available.
Currently, 1,959 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in the county.
“This remains a very dangerous virus, and one that can spread again quickly like wildfire,” Garcetti said. “Which is why the steps in future weeks are so important to do carefully and right.”
Officials are working to further cut down the infection rate by expanding the number of intersection with automated walk signals — so a button doesn’t have to be pressed to activate them — and increasing cleaning and hand sanitizer access around public transportation.
But still, the mayor said he’s confident the countywide stay-at-home order will remain in place at least through May 15. With another warm weekend expected, he urged Angelenos to resist the urge to go outdoors for recreation or to gather indoors.
“That day is coming, but it is not this weekend,” he said.