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LA City, County Are Piloting A Much Faster, Cheaper COVID-19 Test

About 750 firefighters are participating in the study's initial phase. (Mayor Eric Garcetti's office)
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The city and county of L.A. are teaming up to experiment with antigen tests, a self-administered nasal swab test that is much cheaper and faster than the test officials have been using.

The tests L.A. has been using utilize a technique called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and are almost 100% accurate. Antigen tests aren’t as sensitive as the PCR versions, but they don’t require a lab or specialized health personnel and can produce results in 15 minutes.

“They’re more user friendly, and they produce much faster results,” said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“That will help us break the chain of transmission very quickly,” he said. “This could be the game changer we’ve been waiting for, but we have to assess that.”

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So far some 750 firefighters are participating in the pilot. They’ll self-administer the antigen tests, whose results will be double checked by both a PCR test and an antibody test.

If the antigen tests catch asymptomatic firefighters, they’ll be offered at a couple of drive-through city COVID-19 testing sites.

The second phase of the pilot will try to determine if the antigen test can be used on school-age kids.

Researchers working on the study say antigen tests could help keep the pandemic at bay because they can be rolled out in vast numbers and hopefully can spot those at greatest risk of spreading the disease.

L.A. County remains in the most restrictive reopening tier due to ongoing widespread transmission. On Monday, the county hit two more grim milestones, with health officials reporting a total of 7,000 recorded deaths and more than 300,000 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

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