Los Angeles County Expands Access to Free COVID Tests Amid Explosive Rise in Cases

LOS ANGELES (KABC) – Los Angeles County is expanding access to free COVID-19 testing amid an explosive increase in new cases, including nearly 10,000 on Friday, as the county public health director puts on guard against a record number of daily infections by the end of the year.

Fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19, Friday’s 9,988 new infections jumped 15.7% from Thursday’s 8,633. The county has also reported 21 other COVID-related deaths, bringing the cumulative total to 27,533 deaths and 1,595,239 cases since the start of the pandemic.

According to Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus rose to 15% on Friday, more than triple the rate from a week ago.

Public health director Barbara Ferrer warned on Wednesday that if infections continued to rise so dramatically, the daily number of cases could surpass 20,000 by the end of the year, reaching the highest level of the pandemic.

The number of county residents hospitalized with the virus fell from one person on Saturday to 849, according to the latest state figures, including 187 in intensive care, from 181 on Friday. The number of hospitalized COVID patients has increased in recent days, after dropping to 551 in November.

READ ALSO | LA County Reports Nearly 10,000 New COVID-19 Cases in One Day

Ferrer gave the COVID vaccines credit for preventing infected people from becoming seriously ill and creating a burden on healthcare workers similar to the wave last winter, which saw thousands of COVID patients in the provinces. county hospitals. But deaths and hospitalizations are seen as indicators of leakage, so those numbers could still see a substantial spike in the weeks to come.

Ferrer said the vast majority of people hospitalized with the virus are not vaccinated, insisting that the number of hospitalizations for vaccinated residents has remained low and stable since vaccines became available.

According to county figures, the hospitalization rate for unvaccinated people was 25 per 100,000 residents on Wednesday, compared to just 1 per 100,000 for those vaccinated.

According to Ferrer, unvaccinated people are five times more likely to be infected with COVID, 21 times more likely to be hospitalized and 18 times more likely to die.
Ferrer said the county does not immediately consider a return to lockdown or other severe restrictions on public activity, but that will depend on what measures residents take to slow the spread of the virus.

“I have always been transparent and honest with a variant such as Omicron and potentially other variants that may occur in the future, every option has to be on the table,” she said. “Every tool we have must be at our disposal to protect people’s lives and livelihoods and … avoid overloading the hospital system.

“… I think if we can all do this, all of us, every person, we commit to celebrating as safely as possible, which may mean you change some of your plans, we’re going to be OK,” she says.

Meanwhile, the health department said on Friday it was expanding access to free COVID tests amid increased demand during the holidays.

“The demand for COVID-19 testing is steadily increasing as county residents rush to get tested before reuniting with loved ones and as a direct result of the increase in the number of new cases in LA County,” said officials said.

As of Friday, the changes include:

  • Extended hours of operation at LA County sites
  • Additional dates on weekdays and weekends
  • Additional mobile test units in the most affected areas
  • Relaunch of the Vacation Home Test Collection Program with new guidelines to reach more people and make testing easier.

You can find out more about the County COVID Testing Website.

Any county resident who is showing symptoms or believes they have been exposed to COVID-19 can order a home test kit, which requires the swab collection to be mailed back for the PCR test result.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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