This LA-Based Company Is Delivering Free COVID Tests to Angelenos

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

This LA-Based Company Is Delivering Free COVID Tests to Angelenos
LA County Drops Curative COVID Test After FDA Alert on Accuracy

Los Angeles County is sending out free at-home COVID-19 tests as it tries to keep up with a surge in cases that are overwhelming test sites and leaving pharmacy shelves empty.

The county’s Department of Public Health announced over the weekend that all residents are eligible to receive free at-home PCR tests from Temple City-based Fulgent Genetics, in an effort to encourage testing and prevent the highly transmissible virus from spreading even further.


The county reported a positivity rate of more than 20% among those tested for COVID-19, with 1,628 people hospitalized with the virus. L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the county was bracing for an increase in hospitalizations and deaths, as those typically lag weeks behind case numbers.

Public health officials hope the free tests will ease long lines at PCR testing sites and alleviate the costs of at-home rapid testing kits. Some kits can cost up to $40 online or at drug stores, if they are even available.

“You have this perfect storm where we now have this [omicron] variant that we know is more infectious but not as lethal,” said Rita Burke, a professor of preventive medicine at USC. “So we're not seeing as many people die from it, which is a good thing, but we are seeing more people get infected with it. And so the key for that is the testing.”

But the initiative will leave many waiting as many as four days for a test result. The county’s PCR tests are mailed to residents within one to two days of an order, while the results will take another one to two days after they’re mailed back.

Two years into the pandemic, Los Angeles County is struggling to maintain proper testing infrastructure as demand rises exponentially amid the spread of the omicron variant. Many labs are struggling to turn around test results within a two-day span, when they are most useful for individuals and public health officials to track and slow the spread of the virus, according to infectious disease expert Jeff Klausner.

While universities including UCLA and Stanford have recently shuttered in-person classes for the first two weeks of the winter quarter, LAUSD schools remain open. Though the Department of Public Health is rolling out 1.4 million over-the-counter testing kits to schools across the county, it’s unclear how efficacious these efforts will be given the rampant spread of the virus.

“I think a lot of people in health care are concerned that we will continue to see other mutations in the virus and then there will be other variants,” said Kristen Choi, a professor at the UCLA school of public health.

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