Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday that in an effort to ensure the health of front-line responders to the coronavirus crisis, testing will be made available at sites across the county starting Thursday for "critical workers" regardless of whether they are showing any COVID-19 symptoms.
Those workers include "health care professionals, grocery store workers, first responders and critical government personnel," Garcetti said during his nightly briefing at City Hall.
"We wish we could open that up to everybody, but I think we all know that we have firefighters and police officers, doctors, nurses, janitors at hospitals, folks that are in grocery stores and pharmacies that are putting themselves out on the line," he said. "And we want to make sure they are healthy, that they have the peace of mind of knowing they're healthy, and because they interact with so many people, that we can make sure they are not spreading."
Garcetti said workers should contact their employers about how to get the priority testing. People can sign up for the testing online at coronavirus.lacity.org/testing, and the tests can be done at any of the more than 30 centers in operation across the county.
Coronavirus testing at those centers has thus far been restricted to people who are showing symptoms, but health officials have for weeks said that people infected with the virus could be spreading it before they show any symptoms of the illness.
Garcetti also on Wednesday announced the start of an "LA Protects Business Ambassador Program,'' which is designed to ensure that social-distancing and safety requirements -- and wage laws -- are being enforced at businesses that have been allowed to reopen under a city program to produce non-medical-grade face coverings.
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"We also want to make sure that workers at all those facilities are safe and that they are being fairly paid," he said.
Garcetti said the "ambassadors" will document any violations and determine if companies need to be referred to city wage-enforcement officials or to Cal/OSHA or even the police department for repeat violators.
"Most companies are overwhelmingly doing the right thing, and all of them are helping us out with this manufacturing, but you still have to comply with all existing laws while that is happening," he said.
Earlier Wednesday, distribution began at 16 sites across the city of Angeleno Cards -- prepaid debit cards valued at $700, $1,100 or $1,500 -- to some of the thousands of people who applied for them through the Mayor's Fund for Los Angeles.
Garcetti said earlier that 455,000 people had applied for the cards early on, but once duplicate applications were filtered out, and applications from outside the city, about 185,000 households remained. But only between 10,000 and 15,000 of the cards are immediately available, he said.
Garcetti said since the cards are funded solely by donations go the Mayor's Fund, the availability of additional cards will depend on fundraising efforts, which he said will continue.
"If you didn't get selected, hold tight and hopefully we can raise
more,'' he said.