Councilmember John Lee calls for report on cost and effectiveness of COVID-19 testing in Los Angeles


Chris Torres

Los Angeles City Councilmember John Lee calls for a report on the cost and effectiveness for COVID-19 testing.

Cesar Saldana, Reporter

Los Angeles City Councilmember John Lee, the representative of District 12, proposed a motion on March 31 requesting that the Legislative Analyst Office and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office report on the types of COVID-19 tests used and provide alternative methods to improve the current testing program in L.A. County.

The motion came days before California expanded the COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to anyone 16 and older.
Grace Yao, communications director of Lee’s office, emphasized that “testing is as important as ever,” even with infection rates hitting their lowest numbers in months.

“It is always a good exercise to examine the effectiveness and efficiency of programs the city funds to ensure they are serving our communities well, in this case, COVID testing,” Yao said.

In the motion, Lee emphasized the continued importance of COVID-19 testing in identifying and slowing the spread of the virus, particularly for those who have not been vaccinated.

Yao denied that the motion was made because of other elected officials’ inaction. “The councilmember does not believe the city is mishandling anything,” Yao said.

Health officials have had concerns surrounding the availability and long turnaround times of COVID-19 tests throughout the pandemic.

The efficacy of certain COVID-19 tests has also been scrutinized. Los Angeles announced in January that it will stop using Curative COVID-19 tests after the Federal Drug Administration expressed concerns about the tests’ accuracy. Curative administered 24,241 COVID-19 tests at county-supported mobile testing sites — about 10% of all tests at such sites between Dec. 13, 2020 and Jan. 2, 2021.

In January, the FDA alerted patients and health care providers of potential false-negative results from the Curative tests.

The risks of false-negative results include a delayed or lack of supportive treatment, lack of monitoring of infected individuals and the people they come in contact with for symptoms that can result in the spread of COVID-19, according to the FDA.
One in five symptomatic patients with confirmed COVID-19 received a negative test result, according to a study by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Even though many COVID-19 testing sites have been repurposed for vaccinations, health officials warn that a balance between the two is needed. Over six million people in Los Angeles have received the first dose of a vaccine.
Los Angeles announced on April 5 that the county will be moving into the less restrictive orange tier. Lee said that “we have worked hard to get to this point” in his weekly newsletter released earlier this month.

“Let’s continue to be vigilant in our efforts to protect against COVID-19 by continuing to observe public health protocols to protect ourselves and others,” Lee said.

Accurate COVID-19 testing remains essential in treating and isolating individuals with the virus.
Lee’s proposed motion has yet to be voted on and his office did not comment on a possible date when it will be addressed.