COVID Testing Kiosks Are Coming to LAX

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

COVID Testing Kiosks Are Coming to LAX
Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

You'll soon be able to take a rapid COVID-19 test before boarding a plane at Los Angeles International Airport.

Two design companies — one known for transforming shipping containers into pop-up businesses and homes, another that focuses on an eco-friendly approach to architecture — will erect modular COVID testing center at LAX by Nov. 1. New Jersey-based Clarity Labs will eventually staff those sites with technicians.

Details of the labs are still unclear. A spokesperson for LAX confirmed the deal, but neither company nor the airport would immediately comment on it. The news comes as the airline industry — reeling from the virus with layoffs and plummeting passenger bookings — is looking for ways to assure passenger safety.

Earlier this week, United Airlines announced it would be the first U.S. airline to test travelers for the virus, beginning with a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii on October 15. German airline Lufthansa will also start providing tests in October to passengers on international flights.

The converted shipping containers will hold federally certified labs — so-called testing pods — that can return test results in two hours, according to a statement announcing the news. It is unclear when they will be open for the public.

"We are proud to work with LAX to help bring passengers and staff a greater sense of security and safety when it comes to air travel," said Paul Galvin, Chairman and CEO of SG Blocks in a statement.

Lab technicians will use nasal swab tests that the FDA has approved for emergency use. The tests are produced and distributed by South Korea-based company OSANG Healthcare.

Unlike antibody tests, which the FDA does not consider sufficient to diagnose the virus, the lab will use a molecular diagnostic test to check whether travelers have an active infection.

This won't be the first shipping container-turned-lab created by SG Blocks. Earlier this month, the company announced a joint venture with Clarity Labs to launch rapidly produced testing centers under the name "Clarity Modular Lab Solutions" for use in underserved hot spots, according to a statement released by the company.

While the partnership with Clarity is focusing on COVID testing, the venture will eventually offer screening for a range of illnesses including cancer and swine flu, according to the statement.

"The CMLS joint venture is designed to provide fast, accurate and reliable point of care testing that has been elusive for the poor and working classes," the company said in early September. "The vision behind CMLS is to reduce barriers to diagnostic testing to enable the best possible medical outcomes. The labs are expected to be located in high risk areas, densely populated or regional hubs for rural U.S."

United is offering their customers a choice to take either a rapid test at the airport or a self-collected, mail-in test 72 hours prior to the trip. The tests, developed by Abbott Laboratories, can produce results in 15 minutes, according to a statement from United.

New York-based design and construction firm SG Blocks, which was created in 2007, has made containers for a slew of national chain businesses. It's built the first Starbucks drive-through in Salt Lake City and a mobile showroom for Mini Cooper. They've also used shipping containers to build homes in the Hamptons.

Shares of SG Blocks soared after the announcement.

The structures will be designed with architecture and industrial planning firm Grimshaw, which is based in London with offices in Los Angeles.

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Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

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Photo Courtesy of IndiEV

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