County officials: Only those with COVID-19 symptoms, frontline workers, should get a test

County officials on Thursday clarified that they haven’t opened COVID-19 testing to all individuals after confusion erupted Wednesday following comments by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The mixed message came after Garcetti announced that any county resident, regardless whether they are showing symptoms, could be tested for the virus.

But Dr. Christine Ghaly, director of the county Department of Health Services, said the agency is continuing to follow state guidelines. Individuals who can be tested at county-run sites include:

  • Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 (such as cough, shortness of breath, fever and chills)
  • Anyone over 65 or those who have underlying health conditions
  • All essential workers, such as health workers and emergency personnel
  • All staff and residents who work or live in institutional settings such as nursing homes, jails and homeless shelters

Ghaly said the rationale behind the testing protocols has to do with whether the result would change the management or treatment of an individual. For those who work with the public, a positive result would change whether they can work or must be quarantined; for those with underlying health conditions, medical intervention may be required.

For the rest of the public, the treatment wouldn’t change: All residents are being asked to stay at home and limit interaction with the public to essential activities such as grocery shopping.

“A negative test result does not mean an individual can go back to life as normal,” Ghaly said.

County officials also said they need to keep enough tests on hand in the event of an outbreak.

Garcetti’s announcement, which marks a significant shift in protocol, will still apply, but only to testing sites in the city of Los Angeles.

Long Beach, which will have six testing sites available by the end of this week, is following state and county guidelines and is currently restricting tests to people showing symptoms or frontline workers.

Garcetti had said there’s now the capacity to provide tests for anyone in the county who wants to get one. Ghaly said officials may be able to expand testing, but “that evolution will happen over time.”

County health officer Barbara Ferrer also provided updated tallies for the number of cases and deaths in Los Angeles County.

She reported 55 additional deaths, bringing the county’s total to 1,111. The number of positive cases rose by 733, bringing the total in Los Angeles County to 23,182. Those figures include the 36 deaths and 629 positive cases reported in Long Beach as of Wednesday.

To schedule an appointment at any of the Long Beach sites, click here. To schedule an appointment at a testing site run by the county or city of LA, click here. Testing sites within the city of LA will be open for appointments to anyone in the county, regardless of symptoms, according to city officials.

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Melissa has been a journalist for over two decades, starting her career as a reporter covering health and religion and moving into local news. She has worked as an editor for eight years, including seven years at the Press Telegram before joining the Long Beach Post in June 2018. She also serves as a part-time lecturer at Cal State Long Beach where she teaches multimedia journalism and writing.