L.A.’s largest COVID testing facility is planning to switch over to a vaccine distribution mission. Dodger Stadium, where more than a million coronavirus tests have been given, will begin hosting vaccinations on Friday.
“From early on in this pandemic, Dodger Stadium has been home base for our testing infrastructure, a vital part of our effort to track the spread of COVID-19, try to get ahead of outbreaks, and save lives,” Mayor Garcetti wrote in a statement about the switch. “Vaccines are the surest route to defeating this virus and charting a course to recovery, so the City, County, and our entire team are putting our best resources on the field to get Angelenos vaccinated as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible.”
Once at full capacity, officials expect 12,000 people per day to be able to receive vaccinations at the Dodger Stadium facility. Another large testing site, Jackie Robinson Stadium, will also switch over to vaccine roll-outs.
Switching those two COVID testing sites over to vaccinations will triple L.A.’s vaccination capabilities, the city claims, though it will at least temporarily reduce testing capacity. To address that shortfall, the city and county are said to be increasing capacity at other sites, adding additional mobile or pop-up testing centers, and expanding a testing location at Pierce College in Woodland Hills.
The news of the pivot comes as the Curative tests administered at the Dodger Stadium site and other L.A. facilities have been called into question.
Tests for COVID-19 from the San Dimas-based start-up may deliver false negative test results, particularly in asymptomatic patients or in the early days after exposure. For the oral swab to detect the virus, there must be enough of it in the mouth at the moment the sample is taken and that sample must be taken properly, which can be hit-or-miss with a self-administered swab.
“When the test is not performed in accordance with its authorization or as described in the authorized labeling, there is a greater risk that the results of the test may not be accurate,” notes the FDA alert issued earlier this month. There is no indication in the alert how frequently false negatives are believed to occur.
In response, L.A. County announced Monday that it would stop using the Curative tests at county-run mobile testing sites. City of Los Angeles-run COVID testing sites, however, will continue their partnership with Curative for at least the time being.
Mayor Eric Garcetti stated at a briefing last week that he considers the FDA warning “very vague” and that he believes the Curative tests to be as accurate as any COVID-19 testing available at mass scale. During the briefing, he noted that at least 92,000 asymptomatic cases of the disease are known to have been caught by the tests, even though detecting the lighter viral load in those cases is at the heart of the concern.
“It’s not like there’s some other tests the FDA says is better or that’s working better on asymptomatic,” Garcetti said Thursday. “This is something that has saved lives, will continue to save lives. And if we move away from it, I worry we would have a lot fewer people diagnosed and even more spread.”
Negative test results were never intended to be used as a “free pass to party,” and the local testing scheme was set up to test as many people as possible quickly, rather than provide a smaller number of more precise nasal swab tests, even if that introduced the possibility of false negatives, something local journalists noted as far back as April.
Nonetheless, anything that chips into the public’s already unstable trust in the public health regime may raise concern.