After a surge in demand for COVID-19 testing and a strain on supplies, officials have changed their tune about who should get tested and when, saying that those with symptoms and those with known exposures should be the priority.

Until recently, officials were encouraging anyone to get tested, regardless of symptoms. But then employers started asking their employees to get tested before returning to work, people “just wanted to know” to ease their own anxieties and reopenings and gatherings have caused an increase in community spread.

Now, Long Beach residents have found it difficult to get appointments for free testing through the city and county—a problem that’s persisted for weeks.

Mayor Robert Garcia in an interview last week said the city is testing about 1,400 people a day. Long Beach health director Kelly Colopy said in a press conference Tuesday that the city administered 12,300 tests in Long Beach in last week alone.

City officials reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases between Monday and Saturday last week, hospitalizations jumped and deaths are steadily rising. The surge prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom shut down most of the economy again, primarily indoor operations of personal care services, gyms and houses of worship.

Amid the soaring testing demand, the City Council on Tuesday will consider spending $690,000 to order 5,000 additional test kits.

If demand continues to increase, the city can purchase up to 25,000 test kits with a contingency amount of $3.4 million. Long Beach City Manager Tom Modica said in an interview Friday that the city has so far spent about $27.3 million on coronavirus testing, staffing and other expenses between March and July 1.

Some of that money will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Modica said. The city has also received $40.3 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funding for response efforts. The City Council on Tuesday will outline a plan for those funds, which could reimburse some expenses and go toward future cost of the pandemic.

Here’s what you need to know about getting tested:

Who should be tested?

City officials said they are prioritizing tests for those with symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough and shortness of breath, those who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive or for those who have been instructed by the health department to be tested.

The city health department is also prioritizing residents of Long Beach, Lakewood, Signal Hill and Compton.

How do you get a test?

Health officials are asking that if you have symptoms and you have a doctor, to call your health care provider to get a test.

If you do not have a health care provider or insurance, you can schedule a free appointment with specific CVS pharmacies or at one of the Long Beach testing sites. The city announced Tuesday that appointment timeslots would not be available more than three days in advance and that 1,000 new appointments would be made available each day.

The city is no longer allowing walk-up testing. If you can’t get an appointment and you have symptoms, you can visit the city’s Rapid Assessment Clinic where you’ll be evaluated and get a free COVID-19 test without an appointment if staff decide you meet the testing criteria. The RAC is at the Pacific Coast Campus of Long Beach City College and is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

When should you be tested?

If you are not experiencing symptoms, county health officials encourage residents to wait until three days after you believe you have been exposed.

Can I go out if I test negative?

County officials last week warned that a negative test, particularly after a known exposure, isn’t a license to be reckless. It can take up to 14 days from the time of exposure to test positive.

If you know you have been exposed to a positive case and test negative, you still need to isolate yourself for 14 days.

A negative test also just means that you were negative at the moment your test was taken, county health director Barbara Ferrer said. You could still pick up and spread the virus after taking the test.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new information on testing appointment availability.

Valerie Osier is the Social Media & Newsletter Manager for the Long Beach Post. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @ValerieOsier