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UCLA Health increases coronavirus testing capacity as US faces shortage

UCLA Health facilities can now administer more than 500 tests a day, a threefold increase from the previous week. The tests are conducted across multiple clinics in the UC Health system. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Jintak Han

March 26, 2020 3:56 pm

UCLA Health can now conduct more than 500 COVID-19 tests a day, officials announced Thursday.

UCLA Health’s coronavirus testing capacity has more than tripled in a week. The university could only administer 150 tests per day March 19, UCLA Health spokesperson Jane Murcia said.

The expansion comes as the United States faces a shortage of coronavirus tests nationwide and Los Angeles reserves tests for patients with severe symptoms. The LA Department of Public Health recommended March 19 that doctors only test people if a positive result would affect the course of treatment.

The tests are conducted across multiple clinic locations in the UCLA Health system, said Johnese Spisso, president of UCLA Health, and Robert Cherry, chief medical and quality officer, in an internal email.

The increase in testing capacity has come at the cost of turnaround time. Test results will be available in two to four days, according to the email. Previous tests at UCLA could give results in two to three hours, Murcia said in an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News.

The university will screen patients according to the LADPH’s guidelines for testing eligibility. Patients must first see a primary care physician before seeking a test. Common symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

Los Angeles faces an increasing number of COVID-19 cases. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti estimated Wednesday that in six days the situation in LA will reach that of New York City, which reported 100 new deaths Thursday. 

In comparison, LA County saw nine new deaths Thursday, a threefold increase from the day before, LADHP director Barbara Ferrer said.

LA City residents who are 65 and older, have underlying conditions or are in quarantine after exposure to the virus can make appointments online for testing if they have symptoms of COVID-19. The city has a limited number of appointments and may be fully booked.

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Jintak Han | Senior staff photojournalist & news reporter
Jintak Han is a senior staff photojournalist and news reporter. Working at the Bruin through his entire undergraduate career from 2014 to 2020, Han has won dozens of awards and national recognition for his photojournalism. He is also known for his investigative reporting and is a staff writer for the City & Crime beat. He previously served as the 2016-2017 Assistant Photo editor and worked as a weekend reporter at the Korea Times for most of 2019.
Jintak Han is a senior staff photojournalist and news reporter. Working at the Bruin through his entire undergraduate career from 2014 to 2020, Han has won dozens of awards and national recognition for his photojournalism. He is also known for his investigative reporting and is a staff writer for the City & Crime beat. He previously served as the 2016-2017 Assistant Photo editor and worked as a weekend reporter at the Korea Times for most of 2019.
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