In his daily briefing Thursday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti highlighted some of the partnerships the city has established to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
One of those partners is Community Organized Relief Effort, a nonprofit organization founded by actor and philanthropist Sean Penn in 2010 after an earthquake devastated Haiti.
“In Los Angeles, CORE has stepped up with volunteers to grow our testing capacity,” Garcetti said.
According to the mayor, CORE has provided almost 70 staff to run four of the city’s 30 testing sites ensuring those sites can operate while freeing up firefighter/paramedics from the Los Angeles Fire Department to focus on emergency response work.
“This is a very unique situation for us,” Penn said.
With the cooperation of the city and the fire department, CORE has been able to offer free drive-thru testing across the county, including at a site in Malibu that offers free testing to all first responders.
Penn credited Garcetti’s leadership in the city for allowing the organization to mobilize quickly in the wake of the pandemic.
“This is what I hope will be a model in terms of the governance and [non-governmental organization] or community foundation partnerships that can be replicated not only in the city of Los Angeles and throughout California, but ultimately throughout the country,” Penn said. “And it’s going to be part of our job to take lessons learned… and be able to animate that message beyond.”
The organization’s work goes hand-in-hand with the city’s push to provide testing to anyone showing symptoms – even mild — to better understand the spread of COVID-19.
One person who understands the importance of testing is Cynthia Davis, a professor at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, who also spoke at Thursday’s briefing.
Davis has worked in health care for more than 35 years, with many spent in South Los Angeles during the height of the HIV epidemic.
“Just like with HIV infection, you want to use what is called universal precautions, which means you to treat everyone as if they were infected with COVID-19 and take the appropriate precautions,” she said.
But, she said, COVID-19 is much different than HIV in terms of transmission and infection rate.
“With HIV infection, it took approximately 40 years to get to 1.1 million cases of people infected or living with HIV in the U.S.,” she said. “With COVID-19, it has taken two to three months to reach 500,000 plus cases of people infected with COVID-19 in the U.S.”
Because of how easily the illness is spread from one person to another, Davis said that testing is paramount is keeping people safe, something Garcetti has been championing throughout the pandemic.
“We know that this is a virus that doesn’t discriminate, but its impact can,” Garcetti said. “And that’s why we’re depending on everybody in all communities to get tested and to make sure that years of health inequities do not result in people dying.”
Anyone living within Los Angeles County can sign up for an appointment to get tested online.
(This story was originally published by CBS Los Angeles on Thursday, April 16, at 6:29 p.m. PT)