‘Let’s continue to keep our guard up!’: As vaccine eligibility expands, free COVID-19 testing becomes critical and necessary to stop the spread

THE Los Angeles County Department of Health Services has partnered with community-based organizations (CBOs) throughout the county to urge residents to continue testing for COVID-19 as a necessary step to stop its spread, while vaccination efforts continue to roll out.

Because these nonprofit organizations are trusted by local residents and provide critical services in the communities they serve, CBO partnerships are part of the ongoing efforts to maintain the downward trend of COVID-19 transmission in LA County, particularly among the most-impacted Latinx and Black communities, who suffer the highest case rates and lowest vaccination rates.

Why testing is still important:

• Testing will help diagnose and identify people who are infected early and stop it from spreading to the broader community.

• Finding out someone is positive early on, helping to make sure they isolate, and then informing their contacts so they can isolate and protect their loved ones, will prevent pockets of infection from developing.

• As vaccine eligibility is expanding, testing will remain a critical part of prevention until we reach herd immunity.

Through deep-rooted relationships, lived experiences, and commitment to social justice, these CBOs have earned the community’s trust.

As trusted members in communities most impacted by COVID-19, CBO partners throughout LA County address institutional mistrust, myths, and misinformation that could lead to gaps in accessing services like testing and medical care. CBOs address the digital divide through partnerships with local churches, beauty shops as well as phone banking, and canvassing neighborhoods.

They also launch social media campaigns; host virtual informational sessions with BIPOC doctors; and participate in events with high foot traffic to provide critical resources, information, and support for community members seeking to get tested or vaccinated.

“Although there is some immunity from vaccination in our community, not enough people are immune to rule out another surge in infection rates. We must continue to get tested to stop the spread and protect ourselves and our loved ones while more and more people are able to schedule their vaccination,” said Payal Sawhney, president of Saahas for Cause.

Testing continues to be more accessible to communities most impacted by COVID-19. LA County Department of Health Services has expanded testing availability in the most impacted communities, including placing sites where people live, commute, and work like grocery stores, parks, and even churches.

With walk-up, drive-up, and mobile testing locations all over the county that do not require an appointment, testing has never been easier. Testing is free regardless of insurance or immigration status. All personal information is safe and private, and a driver’s license or Social Security number is not required.

As LA County and the rest of the state re-opens, residents relaxing on the measures that have brought down infection, combined with new variants of the virus that spread easily, could bring about a new surge. Additionally, communities of color and low to moderate-income communities are facing low vaccination rates, putting them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.

Dr. Erika Flores Uribe, director of the COVID-19 Testing Equity Collaborative at LA County Department of Health Services, stated, “Vaccines AND testing are both necessary. Testing is especially important now as the vaccine rolls out across our communities to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19. Everyone should get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. Vaccines save lives – potentially your life and the lives of your loved ones.”

When should someone get tested?

Everyone who:

• Has symptoms.

• Has been asked by a doctor or Public Health to get tested.

Everyone who has not yet received a vaccine, or is not fully vaccinated yet, should get tested (even if they don’t have symptoms) if they:

• Know for sure that they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

• Believe they have been exposed to COVID-19.

Everyone who has been fully vaccinated should get tested (even if they don’t have symptoms):

• If they live in a group setting or work in a crowded place (like a correctional facility, group home, or factory) and are around someone who has COVID-19.

LA County Department of Health Services continues to make getting tested for COVID-19 as convenient and easy as possible.

Testing is still free and widely available, with many walk-up testing sites that do not require an appointment. Individuals looking to get tested should call their doctor first. If they do not have a doctor, they can call 211 or visit COVIDHelpLA.org for more information.

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