Public health encourages testing to reduce COVID-19 spread

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With higher COVID-19 transmission levels in Los Angeles County – along with other respiratory viruses – and many residents returning to school and work after the holidays, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is encouraging residents to test if they have COVID-19 symptoms to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Free at-home COVID-19 tests remain readily available throughout Los Angeles County at libraries, from many community-based organizations, food banks and senior centers, through the federal government by mail and at retail pharmacies with a California health insurance plan. Most at-home tests can be safely used past the expiration date on the box.  

For more information on how to check home test expiration dates and how to get free COVID-19 tests, visit

People who test positive for COVID-19, especially those with underlying risk factors, should talk to a health care provider right away about COVID-19 medications, Public Health said in a news release.  

Taking an oral antiviral, such as Paxlovid, can prevent people from becoming very sick, help them feel better sooner and lower their risks of developing Long COVID, the release said, adding that treatment should begin within five days of testing positive or developing symptoms of COVID-19.  

Medications are widely available by prescription at retail pharmacies and Public Health locations throughout Los Angeles County. For a telehealth appointment or help getting a prescription for COVID-19 medication, residents can contact the Public Health InfoLine at 1-833-540-0473. It’s open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

People with respiratory illness symptoms who test negative for COVID-19 should consider masking indoors around others to avoid spreading another respiratory infection, such as flu or RSV, the release said. If symptoms continue, re-testing 48 hours later for COVID-19 is recommended.  

People who are at high risk of severe illness from respiratory viruses who have tested negative for COVID-19 should talk to their health care provider about getting tested and treated for influenza, the release said. Antiviral treatments for influenza are most effective when started early in the course of illness. As with all illness, people with trouble breathing, worsening or unusual symptoms or with chronic health conditions should speak with a health care provider, the release said. 

Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 Hospital Admission Level, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last week reached Medium Level. Based on the Los Angeles County Health Officer Order posted on Dec. 27, when the COVID-19 hospital admission level in Los Angeles County meets or exceeds the CDC’s Medium Level, all health care personnel, regardless of COVID-19 and influenza vaccination status, in licensed health care facilities that provide inpatient care are required to mask while in contact with patients or working in patient-care areas. 

In addition, all persons visiting a licensed health care facility that provides inpatient care are required to mask when around patients and in patient-care areas.  

Masking in these facilities will remain in effect until the COVID-19 hospital admission level in Los Angeles County is below the CDC’s Medium Level for at least 14 consecutive days. As of data posted by CDC last Friday, the hospital admission rate for Los Angeles County is 10.5 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people for data through Dec. 23. 

Public Health is reporting an average of 542 cases per day, which is a slight decline from the 621 cases per day reported last week. However, there was a lower number of reportable tests conducted for the most recent week, likely influenced by the holidays. Case counts are also an undercount due to the large number of home test results that are not reported. 

In Los Angeles County, the average number of COVID-positive hospitalized patients per day increased to 783 from 690 the previous week. 

One of the best ways to lower the risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 is by getting the updated vaccine that became available in September 2023, the Public Health release said. At least one dose of the updated COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for everyone six months and older. You can find a vaccination site at 

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