LAX offering COVID testing for travelers coming in from countries reporting omicron variant cases

Health officials say the testing is voluntary, but highly encouraged.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Los Angeles International Airport has launched a rapid COVID-19 testing site as L.A. County reports its first case of the omicron variant.

The tests are free and are being offered to anyone arriving in L.A. from any country reporting cases of the new omicron variant or travelers who may be feeling sick.

The testing site can be found at the Tom Bradley International Terminal and will include rapid antigen tests, which will give travelers their results before they leave the airport. Health officials say the testing is voluntary, but highly encouraged.

"People will be able to get their results before they leave the airport," said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. "I think that provides security to them as well, that they know that they can go ahead and gather with the people who they were planning to gather with, go to their final destination with some safety. We want there to be a lot of testing, not just for international travelers, but I think just as importantly for residents and workers here in the county."

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is moving to toughen testing requirements for international travelers to the U.S., including both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, amid the spread of the new variant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a Tuesday statement that it was working toward requiring that all air travelers to the U.S. be tested for COVID- within a day before boarding their flight. Currently those who are fully vaccinated may present a test taken within three days of boarding.

An administration official told ABC News Thursday the requirement will go into effect on Monday, Dec. 6.

READ MORE | US moving to toughen COVID testing requirement for travelers amid omicron concerns

The person infected in L.A. County returned after traveling to South Africa via London on Nov. 22, the county health department said in a news release.

"The individual, who is a fully vaccinated adult and a Los Angeles County resident, is self-isolating, and their symptoms are improving without medical care," the news release said. "A small number of close contacts in Los Angeles have been identified and, to date, all have tested negative and have no symptoms."

Health officials added that the infection is most likely travel-related.

Earlier on Thursday before the case was confirmed, Ferrer said that it would only be a matter of time before the omicron variant would be detected in the region.

"While we can't know for certain the impact of Omicron at this time, the good news is that we already know how to reduce transmission and slow spread using both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions," Ferrer said in a statement after the case was reported.

"I encourage everyone to take the steps that we know offer protection, including getting vaccinated or boosted, tested if you feel sick or are a close contact, and wearing your mask indoors and at large mega events," Ferrer added.

The patient in L.A. County is the second known case of the variant in California. The first U.S. case of the variant was reported in a San Francisco resident on Wednesday.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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