County’s COVID cases increase, free testing now for uninsured only

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The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 2,335 new COVID-19 cases Thursday in the county, eight new deaths due to COVID and 249 people currently hospitalized with the infectious disease. Despite reports indicating a slight increase in outbreaks this past week at skilled nursing facilities, homeless settings and TK-12 school classrooms, among other settings, Los Angeles County has moved to offer free testing to the uninsured only. 

During a county briefing Thursday, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer attributed a portion of the rise in numbers to the recent spring break for students and the removal of some of the safety protection measures in various settings. 

“We’re seeing an increase in cases that’s pretty significant,” Ferrer said. “We started to see a small increase in hospitalizations … So, let’s continue to be cautious. Let’s continue to follow the data. Let’s continue to be prepared to take appropriate measures depending on what we’re learning and seeing, both in other parts of the country, in the world and what we’re experiencing in our county.” 

Ferrer added, however, that she feels L.A. County and the country are in a more hopeful phase of the pandemic, and that’s thanks to people getting vaccinated and boosted, and wearing masks when there are higher risks. She recommended that L.A. County residents continue the trend. Children should also be vaccinated and boosted, she said, and take precautions, too, as they can still be carriers and can still become very ill. 

Los Angeles County Health Services, in a recent release, echoed those sentiments that the county and nation have, indeed, entered a less turbulent phase of the pandemic and, therefore, L.A. County would be moving COVID-19 testing beyond crisis mode and allowing the county’s established health care systems and providers to take a larger role in providing COVID-19 testing for their patients, just as they do for other conditions. 

According to the release, over the past two years, due to the urgent nature of the COVID-19 crisis, L.A. County offered free testing to everyone. Even those who had health insurance often chose to go to the free county community testing sites because it was faster and more convenient, the release indicated. 

“At the height of the pandemic,” said Holly Mitchell, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors chair, “our publicly funded testing sites provided critical support serving residents, regardless of their insurance status, to help end the crisis we were facing. Now that we have reached this promising stage in the pandemic, where we are beginning to return to a sense of normalcy, residents with insurance are encouraged to use testing options covered by their health insurer. This is an important step as we continue to assess where our resources are needed most and provide free COVID testing to those who rely solely on the county for their health care.” 

According to the L.A. County Health Services release, residents with insurance can still access community sites throughout the county, but they must provide their insurance information to secure and receive a PCR test. 

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve,” said Christina Ghaly, L.A. County Department of Health Services director, “our publicly funded health response must transition to fit this new reality by prioritizing resources for community members who need them most. We have seen COVID-19 affect our most disadvantaged and under-resourced communities disproportionally throughout the pandemic. It is our obligation to ensure that the county’s available resources be prioritized for those who lack other options and whose health and communities may be harmed without free access to testing.” 

For more information and a list of testing sites, go to COVID19.LACounty.gov/testing. 

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