LA County Asks People to Not Get Tested for ‘Peace of Mind' in Pandemic

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As the number of new COVID-19 cases remains elevated in LA County, officials acknowledge there is a shortage of available testing, and they are discouraging Angelenos from getting tests unless they have significant reason to believe they are infected, or work in a high-exposure job.

Officials promised to add more testing slots, and open another eight test sites in LA County, but offered no details.

What they did do was discourage getting tested simply for peace of mind, and warn that even if you do test negative, you should still quarantine for two full weeks.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti echoed that sentiment later Wednesday, saying getting a negative test wasn't a valid reason to "party."

Officials say LA is at a critical stage of the pandemic, but no further testing appointments would be available this week at already filled sites.

Officials acknowledged they are not now prepared to meet the current testing demand.

"When testing is not adequate, we have to prioritize," said Dr. Christina Ghaly.

Part of the problem stems from extended closures over the past holiday weekend. But the testing squeeze began even before then.

Dr. Ghaly told Angelenos to not to get tested unless they have specific COVID-19 symptoms, a known exposure, or high exposure job.

She also said a "test should never be used to end quarantine."

The stern tone coming as the average number of daily deaths in LA County again started to increase, with 65 reported Wednesday.

The number of newly confirmed cases, despite the testing limits, remains well over 2,000 a day, up from 1,300 a month ago. 

"This daily average provides a clear picture, sharp increase in community transmission," Dr. Barbara Ferrer said.

But officials do see some encouraging signs, saying weekend health department business inspections found much higher compliance to coronavirus precautions. The rate of transmission has dropped back to the threshold number -- each infected person with COVID-19 infects only one other, not several.

"We are all on this rollercoaster together," Ghaly said.

For the first time in two months, the number of hospitalized patients in LA County exceeds 2,000, but with the demographics skewing younger, the cases are often less severe and the hospitalization briefer.

That's the trend Cedars-Sinai is seeing.

"So even though we're admitting more patients, we're not seeing the census rise because turnover is much more quick," said Cedars-Sinai Medical officer Dr. Richard Riggs.

Dr. Riggs and other officials said they are seeing lessened risk of hospitals being pushed to capacity in the near term, but there is consensus the struggle with coronavirus has entered a new phase, and what happens next depends of how well we do controlling this current surge of positive cases.

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