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Team is researching at-home coronavirus testing, Garcetti says

Eric Garcetti says bioscience firms, government leaders and foundations are part of effort to develop at-home COVID testing.
Mayor Eric Garcetti says bioscience firms, government leaders and foundations are taking part in the effort to develop at-home coronavirus testing.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

A coalition of scientific experts, bioscience firms, government leaders and foundations is researching at-home coronavirus testing, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday.

“Last week, I brought together this group for the first time. It’s a grass-roots effort to accelerate the science of testing, so that we can know where outbreaks are quickly, and within days, bring those numbers down,” Garcetti said, adding that at-home testing could “get our children back to school.”

He said the coalition is working with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Governors Assn. to research the cost and volume of testing. Political leaders are also calling on the federal government to mandate insurance coverage for rapid test strips nationwide, Garcetti said.

“If we get this right, we could be doing as many as a million tests a week, using paper strip testing here just in Los Angeles alone. We need help, though, to allow states and cities to purchase this critical tool at scale. It still may be some weeks or even a couple months off, but we need to find even better solutions now,” Garcetti said.

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Statewide in California, the transmission rate of COVID-19 has stabilized or is falling, and hospitalization rates are also dropping.

Garcetti spokesman Alex Comisar didn’t respond to The Times’ request Thursday for the names of the organizations and individuals in the coalition.

Garcetti‘s comments came as local public health officials reported with cautious optimism that a recent surge in new coronavirus cases appeared to be slowing without resulting in hospitalizations sufficient to overwhelm the healthcare system.

There were 1,481 confirmed coronavirus patients in L.A. County hospitals as of Tuesday, a decline of nearly 27% from two weeks before. Statewide, that figure fell roughly 19% in the two weeks ending Tuesday, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

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While hospitalizations have fallen in recent weeks, another key indicator — deaths — has risen since the initial surge of the virus.

California has seen a near doubling of weekly coronavirus deaths since the spring — with almost 1,000 fatalities in the last week alone, a recent Times data analysis found.

The geography of the outbreak has shifted, with suburban and agricultural areas that had been relatively spared during California’s first surge of the virus now being ravaged. Still, urban areas such as L.A. County and the San Francisco Bay Area are also reporting fatality numbers just as high, if not higher, than in the spring.

Times staff writers Rong-Gong Lin II and Iris Lee contributed to this report.


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