LA County can’t keep up with coronavirus testing demand

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A sailor takes a test sample in the laboratory aboard USNS Mercy in Los Angeles, March 30, 2020. About four months into the COVID-19 pandemic, there still isn’t enough testing available across the U.S. Photo by U.S. Navy (CC BY 2.0).

More than 3 million Americans have been infected with the novel coronavirus, and more than 130,000 have died, making the U.S. outbreak the worst in the world. 

An important part of controlling the virus is knowing who has it. But more than four months into the pandemic, the U.S. is still not testing enough, according to health experts.

In LA County and nationwide, it’s tough to get a quick appointment and fast results.

The LA County Public Health Department says there are no COVID-19 testing slots available this week.

LA Times reporter Colleen Shalby got tested at Dodger Stadium a few weeks ago after covering the Black Lives Matter protests.

“I got my results within two days. But I've heard from other people that have been told it would take five days, seven days. ... I spoke with someone who got tested on Monday, and was told at the site that it would probably take between seven to 10 days for him to get those results back.”

Shalby attributes the appointment shortages and lag in results to higher testing demand in June. That was when people were heading out to protests, and more information was being released on asymptomatic people spreading the virus.

“I'm not sure if the county or the city had fully recognized how many people would try to get tested, after really trying to encourage people to get tested,” she says. “In LA County, they are trying to expand sites and add slots, but that process takes some time.”