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LA Expands Free Coronavirus Testing To Taxi, Public Transit And Rideshare Drivers

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Drivers for taxis, public transit and rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft can now get tested for the new coronavirus free of charge even if they show no symptoms, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said tonight.

The mayor's announcement further expands the list of those who can receive the free testing. Limited capacity at first meant only emergency responders, health care workers and those with clear symptoms could be tested. The city and county have gradually added more critical frontline workers to the list in an effort to help protect those who do not have the luxury of staying at home during the pandemic.

Critical workers who can be tested even without symptoms now include:

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  • First responders
  • Critical government personnel
  • Health care professionals
  • Grocery workers
  • Commercial, rideshare, and public transit drivers

In a follow-up question from a reporter, Garcetti said that the list also includes members of the media.
Garcetti also further clarified his announcement on KPCC's AirTalk earlier that the city could begin opening with "baby steps" in as soon as two weeks. Opening the economy will happen in phases, he said, and possibly in fits and starts, with new restrictions if the number of cases start to rise again.

"This won't be done on May 15. It won't be then that you don't have to worry about your health, you can stop wearing face coverings or masks, where you can just go and hug as many people as you want. You can't do that. So you know this debate nationally about those places that are quote-unquote 'closed' and those that are quote-unquote 'open.' It's actually a spectrum in which some people might have stronger closures right now, but the places that are opening are taking baby steps."

Among the things Garcetti said he could see returning sooner rather than later were activities like construction and elective surgeries. He repeated his opinion that large-scale gatherings like concerts at the Coliseum will not happen this year, but he said sporting events without an audience and many other things would be on the table.

Garcetti said he will continue watching how other cities around the country and the world handle reopening, and he'll continue looking to the county health department for guidance on when to reopen. But informally, he said he'll look at three criteria for deciding what to open first:

  • How great is the need? "The need maybe psychological, that we need to get out and have a place to recreate. The need may be that people are suffering economically."
  • How great is the risk? "Something may be low need and high risk — that's going to probably wait some time."
  • How safe can you make it? "Even with high risk, are there things we can do to make sure that there isn't spread? For instance restaurants are generally higher risk areas — contain spaces where people stay for longer than 10 minutes and where that infection can spread — but what safety measures will we do to allow restaurants to begin to open in the future? What safety measures will we have in our parks, so that people can be in Griffith Park but not have contagious zones at places where you start hikes — parking lots, or even on trails."

EXPANDING MEALS FOR SENIORS

Garcetti also announced an expansion of the senior meal emergency response program with help from the federal government. The program provides meals for residents who make less than 600% of the federal poverty level and who are over 65 or who are 60-64 with a pre-existing medical condition.

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The program will also help to employ restaurant and other hospitality workers who've been out of work because of the pandemic, and taxi drivers will help with deliveries.

For information, and to sign up, you can call 213-263-5226 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting tomorrow, or visit coronavirus.lacity.org/seniormeals.

Federal funding will cover 75% of the cost of the program's expansion, Garcetti said, with 19% coming from the state and the remaining 6% being picked up by the city through public money or donations.

The county is looking at a similar program for seniors who live outside of the city, Garcetti said.


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