This Skid Row testing center

This Skid Row testing center is one of many around LA County.

To get a handle on the coronavirus, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced free virus testing for all LA County residents, whether or not they are displaying any symptoms of COVID-19. 

Priority will still be given to those experiencing fever, cough and shortness of breath, as well as front-line workers. Anyone experiencing extreme symptoms should call 911. COVID-19 testing is available by appointment only at 

LA will be the first major city in the country to offer this type of wide-scale testing to all its residents. Testing will take place at eight locations within the city. 

Garcetti explained this is an expansion of what the city had started doing soon after the outbreak in the United States. On March 20, the city began testing first responders. In the coming weeks, testing sites went up around the region and testing increased. 

Thanks to LA County and the nonprofit emergency response organization CORE, there are 34 sites in the region with a capacity to test around 18,000 people per day, according to Garcetti. But, he added, they need to do more.

“So long as COVID-19 spreads, we have to scale up our response—and because this disease can be a silent killer, we have carefully built the capacity to get more people tested,” Garcetti said. “No one should have to wait, wonder or risk infecting others. Don’t leave it to chance. Schedule a test.”

Testing has already been prioritized for the city’s homeless, as well as senior facilities, some of whom have been tested more than once. 

According to numbers from County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health, there is a disproportionate rate of COVID-19 infection in the working class and those living in poverty; that population is also seeing the highest rate of deaths per capita in LA County. 

“This pandemic has created new injustices and highlighted old ones,” Garcetti said. “Testing is one of the best tools we have to fight this virus.”

While LA has stay-at-home orders through May 15, the mayor stressed that isn’t an invitation for a free-for-all for everyone to go back to how things were before coronavirus hit. Many are anxious to get the economy going; however, May 15 won’t be a full-scale reopening. 

“We must take small steps,” he said. While people are hungry to see steps toward normalcy, the mayor urged residents to see this race through to the end, including taking necessary precautions to slow the spread through social distancing, staying home as much as possible and wearing protective masks. 

“Whatever it takes to flatten the curve,” Garcetti said. To fund recovery efforts, the mayor hopes to get the economy going by strategically getting residents back to work while still practicing safe practices. 

The mayor also announced the city is launching a new program called Project Safe Haven, which is aimed at protecting survivors of domestic violence. Since the pandemic began, the LAPD and other agencies have seen an uptick in domestic violence calls.

With a $4.2 million donation from singer/actress Rihanna and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Project Safe Haven can house around 900 families for the next three months.

“We want everybody to be safer at home, but for some folks, we know that home is not necessarily a safe place due to domestic violence,” Garcetti said.