LA Expands Free Coronavirus Testing To Construction Workers, Increases Stash Of N95 Masks
Los Angeles County will add construction workers to the list of critical workers now eligible for coronavirus testing, even if they are not showing symptoms, said Mayor Eric Garcetti today, speaking from the city's Emergency Operations Center.
The mayor thanked construction workers for their help during this time, noting that many of them "have been keeping up with critical infrastructure projects, helping us build housing and keeping people getting a paycheck in these tough times, at a safe distance."
The list of folks who qualify for asymptomatic testing also includes:
- rideshare, public transportation and taxi drivers (as of yesterday)
- healthcare workers
- first responders
- critical government personnel
- grocery workers
- anyone who works or lives in a nursing home
Garcetti noted that the city has signed an agreement to puchase 24 million N95 masks from a company called the Honeywell Corporation, at a rate of 79 cents, plus tax, per unit. These masks wil go to first responders and hospitals in need, at cost. The first 100,000 deliveries will arrive in May and 500,000 will arrive in June; the output will scale up to 1.2 million per month by November.
Gene Seroka, who is currently serving as the city’s chief logistics officer during the COVID-19 crisis, expanded on some other benefits of the mask program:
- All of the masks will be made here in the U.S. and create jobs in production, domestically, so that we don't have to depend on international markets
- City officials will now know exactly how many masks they'll be receiving and when they'll arrive, so they'll be able to update hospitals and frontline medical workers with accurate estimates
- The masks will be delivered at cost to hospitals and workers (no price gouging)
"Some hospitals have told us they need 5 million of these masks just to survive the next couple of months, others have said their mask usage has grown from 30,000 a month to 300,000. So there's still much more work to do in this area, but it's a great start."
In addition, apparel companies are working to produce non-medical-grade masks for non-medical workers. The mayor said that over 1,280 companies have signed up to start production; 433 have been approved. Currently nearly 2,000 essential businesses have requested more than 1.7 million non-medical masks, he said.
Businesses in need of masks for their workers can visit coronavirus.lacity.org/laprotects to sign up. The mayor said he's proud of the program so far:
"We love the idea of buying things here, keeping it American, doing what we can to make sure that we put people back to work in our backyard...64,000 workers who visit an average of five homes a day are protecting themselves and their customers, and we are proud Los Angeles is stepping up to manufacture this, not just for ourselves, but for the entire nation."
UNEMPLOYMENT AND STIMULUS UPDATES:
Garcetti also spoke about the economic hardship impacting many Angelenos right now, especially those who did not receive their stimulus checks because they don't have a bank account. To remedy this, the city is partnering with the county's Department of Consumer and Business Affairs to connect people who need the stimulus money urgently to affordable banking options. Angelenos can sign up for the program at coronavirus.lacity.org/banking.
The mayor reminded viewers that independent contractors, i.e. gig workers, can now sign up for unemployment insurance.
"Here in Los Angeles and across California, we have a robust, thriving community of artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, rideshare drivers and more who don't fit neatly into the normal ranks of our workforce. These benefits now include an additional $600 per week, beyond the usual state allocations, and are retroactive to the date you lost your job, not just the date you first file for unemployment. These small but critical shifts are meant to ease the burden, just a little bit on those who have been hit hardest by this pandemic."