(LOS ANGELES) — The city of Los Angeles will offer free coronavirus testing to all residents regardless of whether they have symptoms, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Wednesday.
Testing centers have been set up across the city but until now they were reserved for those with symptoms and frontline employees like health care and grocery store workers.
Los Angeles will be the first major U.S. city to offer “large, widescale testing to all its residents, with or without symptoms,” Garcetti said at his daily briefing. People can sign up online for appointments starting immediately.
Priority will still be given to people with symptoms, such as a fever, cough and shortness of breath, the mayor said.
Los Angeles city and county were slow to set up widespread testing but in recent weeks expanded the number of test sites. As of Wednesday, there were 34 sites across the county, Garcetti said. He said he’s confident the city will have the capacity to test everyone.
“This is a smart thing to do,” he said. “It’s smart to make sure that you are clear.”
Residents who feel healthy, have been staying at home and haven’t been in contact with infected people may decide against getting testing, he said. People will be able to go back for tests several times, without limit.
About half of California’s total coronavirus cases are in the Los Angeles area. LA County reported 1,541 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, raising the total to 23,485. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the large number is primarily due to increased testing — in part at institutional settings — and some lag in reporting from last weekend.