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Drive-thru coronavirus testing sites coming to Whittier, Carson

Both locations open next week and will be available by appointment only.

Two more drive-thru coronavirus testing sites are opening next week in Los Angeles County, one in Whittier and one near Carson.

The first, opening Monday, April 20, will be at PIH Health Whittier Hospital, 12401 Washington Blvd. The second, opening Tuesday, April 21, will be at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, 1000 W. Carson St.

“Expanding our testing capacity and ensuring residents have easy access to testing,” County Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a statement, “is helping us understand the spread of this virus and will be critical to easing restrictions when that time comes.”

Both locations will be available by appointment only for people with coronavirus symptoms.

Although both communities will benefit from increased access to testing, local officials in Carson — a city of a little more than 90,000 residents that has identified 149 cases, making it home to one of the highest infection rates in the county — said Saturday that it’s about time.

“It’s actually shameful that LA County does not already have a test site in Carson,” Mayor Al Robles said in a phone interview. “If it was the same exact situation, but it was a wealthy white enclave, it’s unfathomable to me that the county would be so nonchalant about not having a test site here until now.”

According to the latest census data, Carson’s population is about 39% Latino, 26% Asian, 25% African American and 7% white.

Robles noted that, technically, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center is in unincorporated West Carson, just outside Carson’s city limits. But, he said, because the location will serve his city’s residents, he’ll count the decision as a win.

County officials, for their part, said more considerations have been at play in determining testing site locations than simply an area’s infection rate.

At first, capacity was key, according to Roland Sprewell, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. That’s why so many testing sites opened up in spaces like shopping mall parking lots.

“We were trying to find areas,” he said in a Saturday phone interview, “where we could handle the capacity each day based on the number of reservations.”

It was also important, Sprewell said, that a hospital be linked to each location.

“Once a patient has been tested,” he said, “based on the results, that care or treatment could be sustained through the local medical center or hospital that was tied to our testing site location.”

As the county has opened up more locations, though, Sprewell said each site’s ability to test a high capacity of people has become less of a key factor. While the need to link a site to a hospital is still important, he said, county officials are now looking more toward setting up sites in underserved areas like Carson.

“We’re trying to make sure we serve a myriad of different areas geographically, whether it’s underserved communities, or more rural communities,” Sprewell said. “We’ll continue looking for sites to geographically make sure we serve a lot of different areas.”

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