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LAX launches on-site coronavirus testing for fliers

An Avianca Airlines employee uses a temperature reader on passenger Eva Zapata.
At LAX, an Avianca Airlines employee takes the temperature of passenger Eva Zapata. The airport is offering coronavirus testing in Terminals 2,6 and Tom Bradley International.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles International Airport is rolling out on-site coronavirus testing, as officials urge against unnecessary travel amid a spike in cases across Southern California.

LAX on Tuesday morning launched interim testing sites at three terminals as a precursor to an on-site rapid-testing lab, set to open the first week of December.

The tests available at the current sites cost $150 and provide results within 24 hours to those who opt to take them.

That will not be fast enough for people about to board a crowded plane and sit in an enclosed space for hours. But the tests could help travelers avoid quarantining at their destination.

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Hawaii, which requires a pre-travel negative test, accepts results from Clarity Lab Solutions, the private company performing the LAX testing.

The rapid-testing facility should be open by early next month, with results available within hours, also for a fee, said Heath Montgomery, an LAX spokesman.

But the interim testing “is something that we can get up and running right now,” Montgomery said.

Coronavirus tests are now available at Terminals 2 and 6, as well as Tom Bradley International — chosen because they’re spread throughout LAX.

The tests, known as PCR tests, are administered with a nasal swab, and results are delivered electronically.

The LAX testing sites arrived a day after California broke its record for new COVID-19 cases, prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom to pull what officials called an emergency brake on reopenings across the state.

With California recording 13,412 new cases that day, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged residents not to travel for the holidays, including Thanksgiving.

Calling testing the “first line of defense against the coronavirus,” Garcetti lauded LAX in a statement.

“COVID-19 is still here and still dangerous, and building up our testing resources at LAX is a gateway to a stronger crisis response and a healthier city,” Garcetti said.

On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an advisory recommending that people avoid nonessential travel as the holidays approached. He also asked people arriving in California to quarantine for 14 days.

Essential travel, as defined by the advisory, is “for work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care and safety and security.”

Although air travel has been increasing in recent months, the number of fliers nationwide is only 30% of last year’s total, Montgomery said.

There’s a possibility that in December that could climb to 50%, with some people still traveling for the holidays, he said.


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