On the heels of another record-breaking day of reported coronavirus infections, Los Angeles County health officials on Monday launched a new testing program for residents unable to make highly sought-after appointments.
The new program allows residents to pick up a PCR test kit, complete the test and return it to designated sites for treatment, according to the LA County Department of Health Services. County health officials said the program is expected to provide more than 6,000 tests per day.
The latest initiative – dubbed the “Pickup test program” – comes less than a week after county health officials halted a home testing program due to what health departments described as a “backlog in the logistics of processing these kits.” KTLA-TV reported that the shutdown was the result of a high number of lab workers calling sick amid an increase in coronavirus cases fueled by the Omicron variant.
Health officials believe the pickup testing program will avoid the “logistical delays” that can occur with in-home service, which has allowed LA County residents to receive and mail tests and should return later this week.
“They can then go to get tested at home or in their car and bring the completed test kit back to the scene,” officials said in an email to The Times.
Los Angeles County has reported more than 225,000 new cases of the coronavirus in the past week, including its three highest daily totals in the entire pandemic. County health officials on Sunday announced the latest record, 45,584. California surpassed a staggering 6 million cases, the latest milestone in the pandemic that happened almost two years ago.
The skyrocketing cases have spurred increased demand for testing, leading to long queues and frustration as testing sites struggle to keep up with the wave. County officials said the pickup program would allow them “to expand testing capacity as demand increases across the county.”
“We look forward to reducing the wait time for getting tested for people unable to make an appointment,” said Paula Siler, director of community mobile testing operations at Health Services, in a statement.
When the pickup program and mail-in testing service are fully operational, “we will have successfully added over 10,000 additional daily COVID tests available to LA County residents,” said Siler. That includes about 4,000 tests per day delivered through the Postal Mail program, which will only be available intermittently, and in addition to tests provided by appointment throughout the county, officials said.
No appointment is necessary for the pickup tests, which are offered at 13 locations across LA County. The kits are free for those showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who believe they have been exposed to the virus. Results are available within 24 to 48 hours.
County health officials have said the kits are not intended for those who need to be tested to return to school, work or participate in some other activity, citing the need to “preserve limited resources.”
People who fall into any of those categories “should request a test through their employer, school district or entity requiring the test,” county health officials said.
At the end of last week, there were around 260 coronavirus test sites in the county’s online database. Of these, about 66 are county-operated and seven state-operated, while the remaining sites are operated by testing partners.
All of the testing sites on the county’s website – including partner sites – offer free coronavirus testing, regardless of insurance coverage or immigration status, county officials said.
However, some sites are operated by private companies, private health systems and local municipalities, “and some of these private sites charge for their testing services,” the health services said.