LOS ANGELES - The nonprofit Community Organized Relief Effort, commonly called CORE, announced Wednesday that it will expand COVID-19 testing capacity in Los Angeles amid surging cases brought on by the Omicron variant.
Los Angeles County on Wednesday reported 6,509 new COVID-19 cases, more than double Tuesday's number and "one of the steepest rises we've ever seen over the course of the pandemic," Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. Another 16 COVID-related deaths were also reported, and another 162 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.
To accommodate demand during the surge, CORE, co-founded by actor Sean Penn, hopes to increase testing to a minimum of 1,000 daily tests across its Los Angeles sites, up from an average of 250 tests per day before the Omicron surge.
CORE said it will meet demand by adding two new sites per week through the holidays. The nonprofit currently operates 11 testing clinics, both fixed sites and mobile. It hopes to increase to 13 units before Dec. 30 and to 15 by the end of the first week in January.
Details about where the new sites will be located were not available. CORE is also working to offer rapid testing at eight of the sites by the first week of January.
"The recent surge of COVID-19 cases fueled by Omicron comes as no surprise to us at CORE. Fewer than 3% of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated, and as long as our global leaders continue to fail to prioritize vaccinating the world's most underserved populations, new variants will emerge and surges will follow," CORE said in a statement provided to City News Service.
"We are working with our regional partners to ensure that we provide access to the most marginalized and vulnerable communities, where people cannot afford to spend three hours in line waiting to get tested," the nonprofit added.
CORE's partners include Pasadena Job Center, YMCA, Girls Club of LA, Los Angeles Health Services, Alma Family Center, the city of Santa Fe Springs, Los Angeles County Libraries, Herald Christian Center, Union Station, Echo Park Residents, LA City Parks and Recreation, the Mayor's Office, LA Apparel, NoHo Alliance, Graff Lab, Flow Health, Carbon Health, Fulgent, LA County and Curogram.
CORE was founded by Penn and Ann Lee in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. During the pandemic, it has partnered with the city to provide free testing, vaccines and support services to vulnerable communities in Los Angeles. It expanded operations across the U.S. and internationally, and has administered more than 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccines and more than 5.9 million COVID-19 tests worldwide as of December 2021. More information can be found at coreresponse.org.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced an effort to expand access to testing statewide, mainly by increasing operating hours at state-run sites. The state has nearly 6,300 testing sites, he said.
"We've been able to determine that 90% of Californians ... have access to a testing site that is within 30 minutes of their home, 60% within just 15 minutes of their home. We have 257 OptumServe partners, and we are working with them to extend the hours of operation, to expand them particularly where there is high demand and there's some bottlenecks," Newsom said.
He urged residents who have been trying to procure hard-to-obtain take- home tests from pharmacies and other retail outlets to visit the state's MyTurn website to get information about available free testing.
People can visit myturn.ca.gov for more information.
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