Long Beach COVID-19 testing sites hit maximum capacity as city sees surge in demand

Residents planning to book an appointment to get tested for COVID-19 in Long Beach will have to wait at least a week or more as a surge in demand has strained the city’s testing sites, officials said Thursday.

The news comes as California, Los Angeles County and Long Beach have all seen record numbers of new cases amid mass gatherings for police brutality protests, businesses reopening and more people venturing outside.

Numbers of daily new cases in California jumped from 4,230 on Sunday to 7,149 on Tuesday, prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom to warn that the state could scale back on some reopening plans.

Long Beach, meanwhile, has seen more than 500 new cases in less than a week. On Thursday, the city reported a total of 3,509 cases. The city reported one new death from coronavirus, for a total of 123 deaths.

In a news conference Thursday, Long Beach Health Department Director Kelly Colopy said all testing sites were full for the “next few days,” while the city looks for ways to expand its capacity. No appointments were available on the city’s website as of Thursday afternoon.

Long Beach has the capacity to test about 1,000 people per day, but last week, the city reportedly averaged around 1,262 tests daily.

Colopy said the city is looking for solutions for faster turnaround times and more potential testing sites, noting that one site tested more than 500 people over the weekend. For now, health officials are urging people to get tested only if they’ve been exposed or are showing symptoms.

Colopy urged people to notify the city if they will not keep their appointments so the slot can go to someone else. While sites have been taking walk-ins, Colopy said workers will start turning people away if they arrive without an appointment.

“We are working to take walk-ins and open additional capacity,” she said. 

Colopy said part of the increase is due to more employers sending employees for testing before they can go back to work.

But the city has also seen an alarming trend in more young people testing positive for the disease. Roughly one-third of new cases in Long Beach are people under 30, officials said.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia on Thursday urged young people to take the virus seriously.

“For all you young people out there thinking that you’re invincible, that is becoming less and less the case,” he said.

While Long Beach has had one of the “slowest and most cautious” reopening schedules in the state, the city is still seeing increases in new cases, while hospitalization and deaths have increased slightly or remained relatively flat. The city’s current positive case rate—the rate of people testing positive compared to the overall number of tests—has jumped from 6.3% in recent weeks to 8.4%.

Garcia cautioned all residents to continue to follow health orders.

“The current trajectory is not going in the right direction,” Garcia said. “That should concern us here in Long Beach.”

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Crystal Niebla is the West Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of her grant-funded position with the Post. If you want to support Crystal's work, you can donate to her Report For America position at lbpost.com/support.
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