L.A. Offers Free Coronavirus Tests to Everyone, Even People Without Symptoms

Workers perform drive-up covid-19 testing administered from a car at Mend Urgent Care testing site at the Westfield mall in Culver City, California on April 24, 2020.
Workers perform drive-up covid-19 testing administered from a car at Mend Urgent Care testing site at the Westfield mall in Culver City, California on April 24, 2020.
Photo: Getty Images

Los Angeles has become the first major city in the U.S. to offer free coronavirus testing to anyone who wants it, even if they don’t have symptoms of the disease. The announcement came on Wednesday from Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has so far adequately managed the covid-19 crisis, a rare thing to see in a country currently being run by the dumbest people alive.

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Any resident of Los Angeles County can sign up at the website coronavirus.LAcity.org to schedule a free test, provided they have a way to prove they live in the area. People with symptoms of covid-19 can get same-day or next-day appointments, but those without symptoms may have to wait a day or two longer.

“We know that coronavirus is a silent killer that moves quietly through the population, and many of the people who transmit the disease [...] don’t know that they have it,” Garcetti said at a press conference Wednesday that was livestreamed on YouTube. “They’re infectious but they’re not showing any symptoms. And this illustrates why making testing available to anyone who wants it is essential.”

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While the test in L.A. is completely free of charge, residents are required to bring a form of I.D., though it “will not be shared with any other agencies for purposes of law enforcement or immigration,” according to the county’s website.

The city has 34 testing sites with the capacity to test 18,000 people per day, far more tests than are currently being conducted in the region, the mayor explained. Los Angeles has tested over 140,000 people in April, according to the mayor, which is still a small fraction of the city’s population. Garcetti pointed out that while L.A. accounts for roughly 3 percent of the country’s population, it has about 9 percent of America’s testing capacity for covid-19 at the moment and that testing capacity isn’t being used.

“Those with symptoms will, of course, have the first priority, but we have the capacity, we believe, to move forward with that starting tonight,” Garcetti said.

Garcetti announced that the city has set up testing for vulnerable populations, including people experiencing homelessness. L.A.’s Skid Row has tested over 600 people in the past nine days, according to the mayor, yielding three positive covid-19 results.

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Los Angeles County currently has identified 22,485 covid-19 cases, and 1,056 deaths. The U.S. more broadly has over 1 million cases and 60,999 deaths, as of Thursday morning, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker.

Countries and regions that have largely gotten ahead of the virus and been able to control its spread have all been places where testing was so widespread that asymptomatic people were able to get tested, in places like South Korea and Germany. But the U.S. has struggled to even get enough tests for people who are showing symptoms. A 30-year-old middle school teacher in Brooklyn died of covid-19 this week after repeatedly being denied a test.

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It was recently revealed that a majority of coronavirus patients who required hospitalization in New York didn’t even have a fever, one of the symptoms that health experts previously believed was necessary to be considered a symptomatic patient of covid-19.

From Physician’s Weekly:

Fever is widely considered a first-line benchmark for suspicion of Covid-19, but the observational finding suggests that a high percentage of patients requiring hospitalization may present without this symptom.

“There are many places simply checking for fever, and that’s it,” [Researcher Karina Davidson] said. “We show that not only can you be infected without fever, you can have severe Covid-19 requiring urgent medical care without fever.”

She added that symptom presentation among patients with Covid-19 is proving to be “diffuse and multiple,” and there is an urgent need to better characterize symptoms that distinguish patients who will develop severe respiratory distress from those who can safely be treated at home.

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On top of all that, doctors in Europe now warn that they’re seeing children with covid-19 come down with inflammation and rare conditions like Kawasaki disease. Children, falsely believed to be “immune” to the virus by some propagandists on Fox News, are also presenting with toxic shock syndrome, according to doctors in Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the UK.

The long and the short of it: There are still many things we don’t know about the way this disease harms the human body, especially in kids. And it doesn’t hurt to get tested, even if you feel fine.

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“So if you think that you might have covid-19, want the reassurance that you don’t... if you’ve been around people that you’ve seen with symptoms, get a test. We can do it,” Mayor Garcetti said on Wednesday. “And I want to remind everybody, these tests are free for the public. Not cost at all to you.”

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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DISCUSSION

misterhess826
William Sean McFly

Why...would I want to get tested if I’m showing no symptoms? From what I’ve heard, the test isn’t exactly pleasant