Los Angeles County has secured 20,000 new tests for COVID-19 and will start processing 5,000 tests per day by Friday, Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu announced at a press conference Monday.
“In order to deploy these tests immediately, our offices have been working together to cut through the red tape and combined $1.25 million of our own discretionary funds to buy these 20,000 tests and get them out as quickly as possible,” Ryu said.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Sunday that coronavirus testing would be accessible to high-risk residents through a testing portal. In addition, Ryu stated that newly acquired tests will be free to the public and will initially be provided to healthcare workers and first responders.
Ryu also stated that Los Angeles County is working on addressing the shortage of coronavirus tests. As of March 20, 25,200 coronavirus tests had been conducted in California, but only 2,400 of those tests were administered in LA County.
In order to expand the county’s testing ability, county officials are working to secure public, private partnerships with certified labs that can convert to COVID testing, according to LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
The tests are provided by Seegene, a South Korean company responsible for the majority of coronavirus tests performed in South Korea. The company has provided tests to 40 countries worldwide and its current global production capacity is 1 million tests per week with a new production goal of 2 million tests per week by mid-April.
“As we ramp up this new production goal, Seegene has committed to providing 100,000 tests per week for the Los Angeles area with a test processing capacity to run 30,000 tests per day,” Ryu said in the press conference.
Ryu pointed out that as the tests become more available, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases may increase significantly but that this is not an indication of a vast community spread.
“This does not necessarily mean we are having an outbreak of new infections,” Ryu said. “Rather, testing is helping us identify our current problem so that our public health officials can better isolate and treat the problem.”
In the press conference, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced that the Sheriff’s Department will be delivering 250,000 N95 masks to a medical supply hub in Long Beach, which would then further distribute masks to all hospitals in LA County. In addition, Villanueva said the department also transferred another 125,000 of these masks to the LAPD and other local police departments.
Eighty percent of people who have tested positive for coronavirus are between the ages of 18 to 65, while 42% are 18 to 40 years old, said Barbara Ferrer, the director of LA County Department of Public Health.
“All people need to be vigilant and practice every directive that’s been issued at the state, county and local level,” Ferrer said.