Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the Covid-19 tests will end today in two of the city’s largest locations. In cooperation with the district, the distribution of the vaccines will begin at the end of the week.
A Mayor’s Office statement said local officials had decided to move away from testing at Dodger Stadium and Veterans Affairs Lot 15 at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Brentwood so that public health officials could immediately access staff, equipment and other resources focus on the distribution of vaccines.
“From the start of this pandemic, Dodger Stadium has been home to our testing infrastructure. This is an integral part of our efforts to track the spread of COVID-19, prevent outbreaks and save lives,” said Garcetti.
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“Vaccines are the safest way to fight this virus and show a path to recovery. So the city, county and all of our team are using our best resources to get Angelenos vaccinated as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible.”
This shift in resources will “temporarily reduce testing capacity in LA County, but more than triple the number of daily vaccines that can be made available to Angelenos,” the mayor said. “The city continues to strive to offer free testing to residents with eight symptoms in eight permanent locations and six mobile locations across LA
“In the coming weeks, the number of tests offered will increase with existing locations, additional mobile teams and an expanded location at Pierce College in Woodland Hills. Anyone looking for a test can find more information at coronavirus.lacity.org/testing or contact their doctor. “
The decision, however, falls as Los Angeles experiences what has long been feared: a Christmas surge in cases on top of a Thanksgiving surge in addition to a fall surge.
LA’s track record in expanding testing to its 10 million residents has been incomplete at best. Offering more testing in the West Valley while reducing it in the most central location in the region can also create hurdles for some of the hardest hit communities in LA.
This amid perhaps the biggest wave of the pandemic.
“If you look at the last 4 days, we’ve seen a greatly increased number,” confirmed Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for public health in LA, on Friday. “It’s just a clear indication of what happened on vacation two to four weeks ago.”
“This is clearly the most recent increase for the winter holidays and New Years,” said Simon. “And it will likely continue for the next week or two. We expect these numbers to continue to be high over the next few weeks. “
Given Garcetti’s words about the importance of testing, one wonders why increasing vaccinations seems like a zero-sum game of testing in the short term.
The nationwide test coverage shows that the demand for tests has increased in the last 10 days and the test dates by the partners Curative and CoreLA are mostly full by the end of the week.
The change comes when California Governor Gavin Newsom promised to vaccinate 1 million people within 10 days. The window closes on Sunday.
Los Angeles District Chairwoman Hilda L. Solis welcomed the decision.
“I want to thank Mayor Eric Garcetti, the entire City of Los Angeles, and the Dodgers Organization for their partnership in bringing us to this point,” said Solis.
“For eight months, Dodger Stadium served as a lifeline for so many Angelenos – and free access to testing. In this moment of darkness, with cases, hospitalizations and deaths skyrocketing, this bold move to offer both Covid-19 testing and vaccines in the heart of Los Angeles reflects the dual nature of that moment – it’s dark, but at the same time hopeful. ” She said. “Robust COVID-19 testing is the linchpin to getting out of this current and unprecedented wave, and the vaccine is the linchpin to ending the pandemic once and for all.”
The Los Angeles County Department of Health also announced it would end the use of curative Covid-19 PCR tests at its pop-up test sites this week after the federal government warned of the potential for false negative results. The tests will, however, continue to be used at test sites in Los Angeles.
The county announced the change on Sunday evening, saying the decision was made in response to a recent warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regarding the possibility of false negative results.
Curative, a diagnostics company based in San Dimas, ran a limited number of tests at county-sponsored pop-up test sites beginning in mid-December. A total of 24,241 healing tests were performed between December 13 and January 2, accounting for approximately 10% of all COVID-19 tests at county-sponsored test sites during that time.
The curative tests are being replaced by Fulgent Genetics tests.
The FDA warning emphasized that the curative test must be performed in accordance with its approved use – which limits its use in those with symptoms of COVID-19. Testing in Los Angeles is open to people whether or not they show symptoms.
Mayor Eric Garcetti last week defended the use of the curative tests at city-run test sites, saying giving it to asymptomatic individuals enabled the city to get the virus in 92,000 people who would otherwise have gone undetected. He said the city has no plans to drop the healing tests.
Up to 12,000 people a day can shortly be vaccinated on the grounds of Dodger Stadium if it is fully functional.
Since opening in May 2020, Dodger Stadium has tested more than a million Angelenos for COVID-19, and no existing test dates have been affected by this week’s operational changes. Inoculations at the site will be distributed to eligible populations according to CDC, state and county guidelines.
The City News Service contributed to this report.