Los Angeles offering free coronavirus testing to all city residents, mayor says

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Los Angeles will be the first major U.S. city to offer free coronavirus testing to all residents -- regardless of whether they have symptoms, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday.

“We did that in just 40 days,” Garcetti told reporters at a news conference. “Those with symptoms will, of course, have the first priority, but we have the capacity, I believe, to move forward with that starting tonight.”

Widespread testing is essential because many people are believed to be spreading the virus asymptomatically, the mayor said.

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The expanded testing is an important step in the right direction, he added, and urged residents not to wait to get tested if they think they have the virus or have come into contact with someone exhibiting symptoms.

“You can’t put a price on the peace of mind knowing that you can’t infect somebody around you," he said.

Previously, testing was available only to those with symptoms, essential workers and those living in places such as nursing homes, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Dr. Christina Ghaly, the director for the county's Department of Health Services said Thursday the county is not offering tests for those without symptoms.

"Our goal in rolling out access to COVID testing is to ensure equitable access to tests for everyone in the county who would benefit from it from a personal health or a public health perspective with a particular focus on vulnerable and at-risk populations," she explained. "As a county, we are not currently providing testing for low-risk, asymptomatic individuals, which the city of Los Angeles announced they will be doing at their city-operated, community-based testing sites."

Testing will be available by appointment only at multiple sites around the city.

Coronavirus deaths in the county have doubled in the last week, with health officials reporting the largest single-day spike Wednesday, according to The Times.

Besides the city of Los Angeles, the county covers more than 90 other communities and unincorporated areas and more than 10 million residents.

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A lack of widespread testing capacity across the U.S. has hampered many local efforts to ease stay-at-home orders and reopen the economy, reports have said.