Sat, May

Los Angeles, Garcetti Squander COVID Test Resources


@THE GUSS REPORT-It’s all about the testing, LA politicians repeatedly tell us.

They said to keep sheltering in place, stay away from work, stores, schools, beaches and everywhere in-between until we get mass testing done so we know who has the COVID-19 / Corona Virus Disease and who does not. Oh, and it’s all President Donald Trump’s fault. 

But the reality on the ground is this: there is plenty of testing available in LA at the City and County levels. But LA politicians are running around like the COVID Keystone Cops and it is abundantly clear that they lack an orderly local chain of command for the deadly, global pandemic. 

On April 14, I got tips from people attending a farmer’s market at the Sherman Oaks Fashion Square Mall parking lot. They took photos showing that nobody, as in really nobody, was there for the coronavirus testing that our politicians had arranged. 

While it’s slightly different in your community, our chain of political command is Governor Gavin Newsom, the LA County Board of Supervisors represented here by Sheila Kuehl, and City of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Council president Nury Martinez and Councilmember David Ryu. 

As the photos show, there were a half-dozen or so safely attired, properly equipped medical personnel to take the tests and even a photographer to document the event. 

And there’s Disconnect #1. If the politicians listed above arranged the testing event and a photographer (whether a hired one or one from the media) but virtually nobody shows up to be tested, it means that someone is seriously miscalculating the need for testing at that location. 

Or they are failing to get the word out. 

Or the requirements to get tested are way too restrictive. 

At any rate, those are precious COVID testing resources being squandered. Otherwise, why would you have a photographer there? To document nobody showing up? 

So, intrepid columnist that I am, I learned the other day that one of my neighbors with an underlying medical condition tested positive for COVID and self-isolated for 14 days. I had contact with her, her teenager, and their dog. Since my seasonal allergies were causing mild cold-like symptoms, the test provider said I should come in for a test just to be safe. 

I submitted a request for that on Monday -- as in, April 20. How long I would have to wait to get that test was a stunner: They gave me an appointment for 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday, as in the next morning.

Surely, I would need to get there early because of the overwhelming demand. So, I pulled up to the site ten minutes early. What I saw was this. Nobody else was lined up in the empty parking lot. Just the same half-dozen medical personnel. 

So I waited and watched from afar. Nobody else had shown up. Nobody as in, well, you get the idea.

That’s two testing events in a row. It’s hard to imagine it is an anomaly. 

When it was my appointment time, I drove up to the check-in area, where the young, professional crew under the first awning outnumbered me by a ratio of 5:1. When they returned my photo ID and insurance card (wait, isn’t the test supposed to be free?) I was instructed to drive ahead to the next awning, where another tech, making the ratio 6:1 for those keeping score, took my nasal swabs and I went along my way. I checked back several other times throughout the day and saw only one other vehicle run through the gauntlet. 

Either I missed all the other people seeking the test or nobody showed up. I suspect it’s the latter.

I reached out to every LA City Council office and Mayor Garcetti’s media relations people for the stats on how many people are signing up for the tests, how many are showing up and whether their office spent any money for photographers. 

Other than Ryu’s, the Council offices with which I made contact said they had none of those stats, and consistently said the operations were led by Garcetti’s office and at the County Supervisor level. Ryu’s people said they’d provide that information to me, but I had to submit a Public Records Act (PRA) request. 

Disconnect #2: Why would Ryu’s office ask for a PRA request when his peers referred me to Garcetti and the County Supes? 

Disconnect #3: Garcetti’s office refused to explain why these resources are being squandered. They wouldn’t even acknowledge the problem. As the central point of contact on TV every afternoon pining about how we should “stay safe, stay home,” and sundry other nonsense like wishing us “much love,” shouldn’t he, if anyone, know? 

Truth be told, his superficial majesty is focused on the wrong things and gets flustered, like telling Los Angeles during a scripted speech last week to keep looking after “your loved ones-es” best interests. 

Disconnect #4: Herb Wesson, the embattled Councilmember seeking to handle problems at the County level next year (as does State Senator Holly Mitchell), refused to share how he would make the process more efficient and effective. 

Exhausted, I reached out to Sheila Kuehl, the County Supervisor in whose area Sherman Oaks is located. The skinny is simply this. The Supes are aware that there’s a disconnect between where COVID tests are offered and where they are needed the most. Her office needs them to be fair, equitable, and economically feasible, i.e. they can’t have testing on every corner. And then there’s the complexity of finding locations that can accommodate large scale testing, since places like strip malls won’t cut it. 

But at least Kuehl’s office admitted there’s a problem and said they’re going to fix it. This is what we call leadership and accountability. 

LA’s politicians need to do better. It is shameful that they’re failing, but we are accustomed to that.  But we are tired of staying home while time and other resources are squandered. 

Until things improve, “much love” is all we’ve got.


(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatchLA, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pasadena Star News, Los Angeles Downtown News, and the Los Angeles Times in its Sports, Opinion and Entertainment sections and Sunday Magazine, among other publishers. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.



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