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Mayor Garcetti Says Over 60,000 Angelenos Have Been Tested For COVID-19

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Speaking from a drive-through testing site in Crenshaw, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti acknowleged the increasing COVID-19 death count in L.A. and said the city is making efforts to expand testing for African Americans, who have been disproportionaly hit by the virus.

"As I mentioned last week, the coming weeks would be the worst weeks we face," he said. "And that certainly is bearing out."

The mayor noted that today L.A. experienced the highest number of deaths in a single day — 55 — the third day in a row that we've seen record deaths. But he said that doesn't mean the curve isn't flattening. It might just be "bending."

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He said the city has not run out of hospital beds – L.A.'s general emergency hospitals currently have 1,558 available beds and over 1,000 available ventilators.

TESTING UPDATES

The mayor pointed out that the city has come a long way with increasing the availability of testing in multiple locations. On March 20, the city opened one drive-thru testing location in Elysian Park. On March 23, they opened four more sites.

Crenshaw Christian, where Garcetti spoke from the parking lot, has tested nearly 10,000 people to date, the mayor said.

The city now has the capacity to test 11,000 people per day, he said.

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"By the end of today we will have tested approximately 61,000 Angelenos," he said. "In just one week we've doubled the number of people tested, and one week from today we will have tested 90,000 people."

He added that the Los Angeles Fire Department's Rapid Response Team has now tested over 600 residents in senior living centers, as well as the staff of those centers.

The mayor also acknowledged the racial inequality we're seeing in testing data, noting that although African Americans make up only 9% of the county's population, the latest data shows they account for 15% of deaths from the virus.

That's why the city has doubled the size of the Crenshaw testing site in South L.A., in addition to adding new testing sites at the Forum in Inglewood and at Charles Drew University in Willowbrook, near Watts.

Garcetti urged everyone who is experiencing symptoms to get tested immediately. Test signups can be found here.

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MORE INFO ABOUT THE VIRUS

Garcetti introduced Professor Cynthia Davis, who developed the first mobile HIV testing in Los Angeles in 1991. Davis echoed public health experts, saying that we should be using universal precautions, meaning we treat everyone as if they were infected, in order to slow the spread of the virus.

Davis highlighted that COVID-19 is airborne, unlike other viruses.

"It took approximately 40 years to get to 1.1 million cases of people infected with HIV in the U.S.," she said. "With COVID-19, it has taken two to three months to reach 500,000-plus cases."

Davis also said we must be prepared in case there is a second or third wave of the virus in the fall.

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SEAN PENN MADE A GUEST APPEARANCE

Sean Penn (yes, that Sean Penn) runs the nonprofit group CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort), which Garcetti says has provided almost 70 staff members to run four of L.A.'s testing sites.

He made a special guest appearance at the press conference to praise the city's response to the virus, including the mayor and the L.A. Fire Department, adding that his organization is funded by donations.

LAFD Updates

LAFD has launched a new telemedicine program, which is commonly used by doctors but rare for fire departments. At emergency dispatch centers, doctors, nurse practicioners and physician's assistants are screening COVID-19 patients and other 911 callers via smartphone.

The program has been in development for two years but was accelerated when coronavirus started to make up a large percentage of emergency calls in L.A.

L.A. Fire Chief Ralph M. Terrazas said today is the eighth day of the telemedicine program. Both the chief and the mayor said that this program will ease crowding in emergency rooms and allow patients who have preexisting conditions to get medical help without the risk of entering a hospital.

AIR TRAVEL

"After 9/11, we saw the biggest drop in plane flights in our airport's history," Garcetti said. "About 55% of our plane travel dropped off, and it took 10 years to come back. Right now, 95% of our plane travel has stopped."

The mayor pointed out that LAX, the fourth busiest airport in the world, has taken big financial hits during this period. The airport will be receiving $320 million from the CARES Act and $29 billion in federal funds.

A condition of that federal funding, though, is that airlines are required to retain almost all of their employees through Sept. 30. The city is also working to help airlines with rent reduction or referral through June 30.

THE CENSUS

Garcetti urged Angelenos to fill out the census, saying that only about 40% of households in the city have responded. He called that rate "embarrassingly low."

He urged undocumented residents to participate.

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