Local Testing Facilities Struggle With Staffing, Supply Shortages As Demand For COVID-19 Tests Soar
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - As Los Angeles County continues to reach new all-time highs for daily COVID-19 cases and lines at local testing sites only getting longer, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he's activated the California National Guard to help with testing.
In North Hollywood at Total Testing Solutions, the lines were long and patience was thin as dozens of people waited in their cars for COVID-19 tests Friday.
"My appointment was for about 4:15 p.m. this afternoon and I've been waiting for about 50 minutes," Mina McCoy told CBSLA.
Many people, though are determined to get a test even if there's a wait.
"Testing has been a lot more difficult over the last surge, just in terms of finding appointments or finding places that'll take walk-ups, and also turnaround time has been slower," said Ryan McCauley who was getting a COVID-19 test.
Los Angeles County once again smashed records Friday with more than 43,000 new cases. More than 20% of people getting tested are positive.
Both the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles, announced Friday that they're extending remote learning through late January due to the surge in Omicron-related COVID-19 cases.
With COVID cases rising so sharply, experts say testing is as important as ever.
"It's also really important at this particular moment to limit your exposure to other people in general because you don't want to become infected and not be able to get a test and have to go through all of this as well," said Dr. Anne Rimoin, a professor of epidemiology at UCLA.
Asked about whether they'd consider reopening mega-testing sites like Dodger Stadium to meet the demand, LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis said in part:
"I am working with our health department to expand testing at our existing sites through the evening and weekend hours, launching mobile test sites, and providing home test kits to community members where possible."
Many residents said that competition to get an appointment or a test kit is tough.
"I tried making appointments, but didn't have very much luck about a week ago. So, I did walk-ups and, yeah, I saw lines like pretty much going halfway around the block," McCauley said.
A local volunteer, identified only as Jashin, said her elderly parents struggled to make an appointment online or get help in Spanish.
"If you were to drive along Florence and Atlantic right now, you're going to see a long line of people that have the same issue that my parents do," she said. "What concerns me most is the social distancing. There's long lines. It's cold. People are getting sick, whether it be the flu or COVID."
In the meantime, the surge continues to take a major toll on health care workers. LA County has seen almost 1,000 more health care workers test positive since the end of December.
"It isn't just about COVID. We're seeing normal health services are being impacted as well. So, now is the time to be exceedingly careful. You don't want to have to go to the hospital for any reason," Dr. Rimoin said.
CORE has opened a new drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at Pierce College. The operating hours will be 10-4 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday, and the entrance is right off Mason Avenue and Victory Boulevard. The site is contracted to be open for at least the next month. Interested parties are asked to pre-register online before going to the site.
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