As COVID-19 cases surge, Los Angeles expands testing availability

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Heading into the holiday season, local and state officials are sounding the alarm about a rise in coronavirus cases.

Alerts were sent to the phones of many Angelenos on Tuesday warning them of the increase and reminding them to wear a mask, social distance and get tested.

Mayor Eric Garcetti says residents cannot let their guard down during the holidays - and that they should not be traveling out of town to attend gatherings and should not be inviting people into their homes.

"This is one of the most precarious and dangerous and fragile moments in our fight against COVID-19,'' Garcetti said. "Just yesterday, the most Americans to ever get COVID-19 got it.''

Garcetti said the county's contact tracing shows more than 10% of people who have tested positive within the past week had been in a gathering of more than 10 people.

"The current dangerous spike in infections is being driven in part by gatherings, often between people who aren't showing symptoms," Garcetti said.

Rapid testing could be coming to Los Angeles soon, Garcetti said, and progress with studies continues at the University of Southern California.

"In a few weeks we'll know some of the initial results working with USC,'' Garcetti said. "There's a couple factors at play. One is how many tests we can get, and the state of California is getting millions of those tests, so we're working with them to try to see if we can distribute those in coming months.''

Moments after he finished his briefing, Garcetti sent a message on Twitter saying We're facing a surge in COVID-19 cases. We cannot act like this virus has gone away. We cannot let our guard down. It's still here. It's still deadly. We might be tired, but we can't let up. Please avoid gatherings. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Get your flu shot.''

Garcetti said the Pfizer announcement that its vaccine against COVID-19 may be 90% effective is extraordinary,'' but he said more research is needed.

More than 2,300 new infections were announced Tuesday in Los Angeles County, with 25 deaths - bringing total deaths to more than 7,000.

In California the 14-day positivity rate has climbed to 3.7% up from 2.9% last month.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are also up by more than 30% over the last two weeks.

The state expects over half of California's counties will be moved into a more restrictive tier if current trends continue.

Garcetti says the free testing sites in Los Angeles will be open longer hours and will have more tests available. The county's largest site, Dodger Stadium, will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Results are generally available within 24 hours.

Also as a coronavirus vaccine moves closer to approval and then distribution, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn is recommending the Department of Public Health work with school districts to see if it's feasible to use schools as mass vaccination sites.

City News Service contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.