UPDATED, 5:40 P.M. As residents — and reporters — sought to understand why L.A.’s largest coronavirus testing site had closed over the weekend, the mayor’s office indicated on Monday that the closure of the Dodger Stadium facility had been planned, though no announcement of the closure could be found.
This, on the same weekend that Los Angeles County on Friday saw a new daily record for coronavirus cases, with 3,187 reported.
“Today three City testing locations are open, with nearly 100 State, County and private provider testing locations open across LA County,” Andrea Garcia, Spokesperson for Mayor’s office, told Deadline on Monday. “The Dodger Stadium location was not scheduled to be open today but it will be open tomorrow. No appointments were cancelled. City sites provided 2,800 tests today and will provide 80,000 tests this week.”
One reason for the shutdown seems to be that, as the county testing system was overhauled over the weekend, so were processes at the city’s largest testing site.
Testing company Curative and Sean Penn’s non-profit CORE are stepping up to meet the increased demand at the city’s Dodger Stadium site. The weekend break allowed those entities to refine and switch the city’s Dodger Stadium efforts over to a new system. That new model will bill insurance directly for testees who have insurance, with nothing out of pocket. For residents who do not have insurance, the city and the CARES Act will pay for the test.
Given the spiking numbers and expected surge after the 4th of July weekend, the city, Curative and CORE are gearing up for increased positive COVID-19 results as well as demand over this next month.
That rigor will be a welcome change given that L.A. has been hampered by incomplete numbers and data. In fact, testing data at the county and state levels lagged over the long weekend.
But the truth is that more resources are needed. The mayor’s promised 16,000 tests a day in a city of nearly 4 million people will not get it done. And with the economic downturn, budgets are stretched thin. It will likely take the combined financial backing of the private sector and local, state and federal officials to get the region where it needs to be, testing-wise.
The state’s capital, Sacramento, announced late in the day that it was shutting down five much-needed community testing sites because testing materials are in short supply.
Curative’s tests, which will be used at the Dodger Stadium site in L.A., would seemingly avoid this shortfall. According to the company’s web site: “Our proprietary methodology employs a different supply chain than typical test kits, reducing our reliance on an already-strained manufacturing base.”
PREVIOUSLY, 2:40 P.M. Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer reported 1,584 new coronavirus cases on Monday. She indicated that Monday numbers are usually lower due to a lag in testing.
On Friday, Los Angeles County’s new daily coronavirus cases crossed the 3,000 mark, with a record 3,187 reported. Over the weekend, L.A.’s largest COVID testing site seems to have closed down with no explanation.
When asked about the closure of the Dodger Stadium site a county official said, “It would be best to address those questions to the city.”
The site is currently closed according to a report by NBC News and accounts on social media today.
“Dodger Stadium is closed right now,” said an MSNBC. “When we called the City of Los Angeles, they said that this had something to do with staffing levels…However, now we’re hearing that this may have something to do with funding at the county level and reimbursements.”
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office did not immediately respond when contacted by Deadline about the situation.
The official Los Angeles City COVID test appointment site makes no mention of the closure.
This comes after weeks of complaints from residents about the paucity of testing, including on Monday.
On June 24, Garcetti said the city was surging its testing capacity. The mayor said he is ordering the city to “scale up testing to meet the demand,” going from 7,700 tests a day last week to 13,600 tests.
“Get out and get tested,” said the mayor at the time. Garcetti made no mention of the Dodger Stadium closure during a media availability on Monday morning.
Last week, Garcetti banned Fourth of July fireworks displays and gatherings with people outside of those one lives with. County officials took the extraordinary step of re-closing restaurants to dine-in service and ordering movie theaters to stay closed for at least 3 weeks.
Ferrer announced on Monday that “almost 50 percent of new cases happen to young people” under 40. The upside of this, she said, “is that we have had a decline in deaths, thankfully, in the skilled nursing facilities.”
Ferrer reported 48 additional deaths on Monday. That means there hav been 3,534 total fatalities from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County.
When asked about the smaller number of deaths recently, Ferrer referred again to the rising numbers of young people contracting the virus and their generally healthier immune systems.
“We often have a delay for deaths from when we start to see increased hospitalizations,” reminded Ferrer.
But, Ferrer said, “Cases are surging as a result of community spread” as more people spend more time out and about.
Early last week, the seven-day average of the daily testing positivity rate increased from 5.8 percent two weeks ago to 8.4 percent. On Monday, L.A. County Health revealed the seven-day positivity rate was up to 9.5 percent.
While the county announced it now has the ability to implement 26,000 tests a day, the appointments for Monday were already filled, according to health officials.