COVID-19 continues to have a substantial impact on residents across LA County, with a disproportionate burden on vulnerable communities, including people of color, the elderly, the uninsured, the underinsured, and others. The pandemic exacerbated existing health and socioeconomic inequities, which continue, even as cases, clusters, and outbreaks of the virus have waned. As a vital part of providing ongoing support to our communities, DPH continues a long-standing, wide range of activities that began in early 2020. In December 2021, DPH began antigen test kit distribution to many communities, which continues today. Further, on April 1, 2023, all DHS community testing services transitioned to DPH. DPH has and continues to work closely with county, state, and federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Emergency Medical Services Agency (EMSA), as well as a broad and strong partnership community residents and stakeholders.
DPH leverages existing community partnerships to distribute antigen tests to organizations and agencies across 28 sectors and support other modes of COVID-19 testing; provide therapeutic medicines free of charge to those at higher risk of severe illness from the virus; offer vaccination services and test distribution to those who are homebound and otherwise unable to access vaccinations and tests; and provide outbreak management, timely communications, and education. Supporting a broad range of community testing modalities with this dedicated funding will strengthen our approach, deepen our reach, and complement the range of services already in place to support those who are most vulnerable. With the Public Health Emergency ending, DPH’s services have a particularly important impact given the reduced, no-cost access to testing, vaccines, therapeutic medicines, and masks.
Through the opportunity to support ongoing community testing access with expanded distribution efforts and reach in the hardest-hit communities, we will have a greatly enhanced ability to serve those who have experienced some of the highest rates of COVID-19, with higher rates of mortality, severe illness, and hospitalization than the general population. DPH’s community testing mission builds upon existing community testing services through Public Health Centers, and provides robust antigen test distribution, including to those who are homebound. Antigen Test distribution across sectors will continue with DPH's existing inventory of antigen tests. If DPH reaches low inventory of tests during the project period, CEO has committed up to $21,000,000 additional funding, if needed, to continue antigen tests purchases for community distribution. Fixed site kiosk/dispensing machines provide a best practice option for accessing free antigen tests without making an appointment or waiting in line in an accessible location. In addition, genomic sequencing is an important factor in identifying variants of interest or concern as part of an early alert system; and a secure and streamlined warehousing of resources as a hub for distribution is vital to the effort. This work complements ongoing services offered by our department to ensure equity of service access and mitigate the spread and detrimental long-term health effects of COVID-19.