How To Get Tested For Coronavirus In LA

A volunteer in personal protective equipment (PPE) holds a specimen bag while conducting drive-through coronavirus testing at Malibu City Hall on April 8, 2020 in Malibu, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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Updated April 30, 2020

It's happening: You're starting to feel sick. Maybe you have a fever, or a cough, or you can't smell breakfast. Could it be COVID-19? Where can you get a test? Can you even get a test?

Things are changing day by day, but here's what we know as of April 30, 2020.

WHO CAN GET TESTED?

If you're in the city of L.A., you are eligible for free testing, whether you're experiencing symptoms or not.

Initially, it was only people in high-risk categories who could get tested — people 65 and older, or those with underlying health conditions. As testing capacity expanded over time, L.A. opened up testing availability.

If you're outside L.A. city — but still in L.A. County — only people in high-risk groups are being prioritized for tests.


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HOW DO YOU GET A CORONAVIRUS TEST

Unfortunately, you can't just show up to a clinic or drive-through site. You have to get approved for a test first.

There are a few ways to do that:

  • Get a directive from a health care provider. The L.A. County Department of Public Health is asking people NOT to call 911 and NOT go to the emergency room unless you're seriously ill and need emergency care.

    If you don't have a health care provider, call 211 and they'll direct you to a nearby clinician. It's important to call ahead so that appropriate precautions can be taken to keep from spreading the virus.
  • Apply online if you live anywhere in L.A. County. You can get screened via the online portal here.

You'll be asked some questions on the eligibility form, and then you'll be asked for your contact information for next steps.

For additional details, check out the lengthy testing FAQ and testing information page put together jointly by the city and county of L.A.

DO YOU HAVE TO PAY TO GET TESTED?

No. California health officials are waiving all co-pays for COVID-19 testing, no matter which insurance plan you're on or whether you have health insurance. The federal government has also promised to help reimburse hospitals for caring for uninsured COVID-19 patients.

If you don't have insurance, you can still get it: State health officials extended the health insurance enrollment period to June 30, and enrollment for Medi-Cal is open year round. In L.A. County, the no-cost health care plan My Health LA is also available.

You can also be tested for free regardless of your immigration status. And the federal government has said that getting tested or treated for coronavirus will not count toward the public charge test for getting a green card.

WHERE TO GO FOR THE TEST

More and more drive-through testing sites and clinics are opening up.

But again, don't just show up! You have to get approved first.

Here's a map provided by L.A. County where you can locate one near you.

HOW DOES THE TEST WORK?

At some testing sites, a health professional will administer a nasal swab. At other places, you'll be given a testing kit for an oral swab that you can administer yourself. Here's a handy instructional video courtesy of L.A. officials.

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With contributions from Brianna Lee, Lisa Brenner and Jackie Fortier