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L.A. dispatches mobile coronavirus testing to high-risk communities of color

A driver leans out of their window with arm outstretched to drop a bagged coronavirus test specimen into a receptacle
A test specimen is turned in at a mobile coronavirus testing site at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Willowbrook on April 8. Los Angeles is deploying mobile testing units in high-risk areas.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday dispatched five mobile coronavirus testing teams to predominantly Black and Latino communities in the east San Fernando Valley and South Los Angeles, where infections nearly doubled in early December.

“Angelenos must remain vigilant in the face of this surge,” Garcetti said in a statement, pointing to an explosion of cases across L.A. County and beyond in recent weeks.

As of Monday, L.A. County was averaging nearly 10,700 new coronavirus cases a day over the last week and 58 new COVID-19 deaths a day — both at or near records.

Communities where the mobile units are headed have seen particularly dramatic increases relative to their population, according to the mayor’s office, which said it relies on county data to spot trends.

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It’s no coincidence; the areas are home to a large number of essential workers, who have not been able to stay home and avoid elevated risk. They then often return home to high-density living situations, where the virus can spread easily, said Deputy Mayor Jeff Gorell.

From powering the supply chain to working in stores and hotels, the workers “are keeping us afloat through the pandemic,” Gorell said.

For the week ending Dec. 4, the East Valley accounted for 26% of all new cases citywide, and South L.A. made up 19%.

The number of cases in Van Nuys increased 74% from the week before, Pacoima surged 92% and the neighborhoods of Florence-Firestone, Vernon, Sun Valley and Canoga Park saw increases of more than 100%.

Rapidly increasing case rates in the East Valley led the mayor’s office to launch a testing site at San Fernando Park last month.

Each mobile site has the capacity to test around 1,000 people a day, kicking up the city’s current capacity of 41,000 tests across its 10 permanent sites.

The city is operating at the upper limits of capacity, Gorell said.

Each day, the city’s roughly 37,000 appointment slots are booked. About 4,000 people who show up without appointments are accommodated, according to the mayor’s office.

Turnaround time for tests is now about 37 hours, Gorell said, an increase from less than 24 hours a few weeks ago.

Appointments are not necessary to access the mobile sites but can be made online.

These are the locations and availability throughout the week:

East Valley:

South L.A.:

Additional neighborhoods:


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