Fears winter surge in cases

Amid growing concern about the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and fears of another winter surge in cases, the county will set up a rapid-testing site at Los Angeles International Airport tomorrow to offer free COVID assessments for arriving international passengers.

“We’ll be messaging the need for international travelers to comply with the federal quarantine and testing guidance, and any travelers that do test positive will be required, of course, to isolate, and their close contacts will need to quarantine,’’ county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

“The COVID testing at the Tom Bradley International Terminal will be offered strictly on a voluntary basis, since there is no federal requirement for inbound passengers to be tested.

“The federal government is highly recommending that people get tested,’’ Ferrer said. “We will have our health workers out there, as well, talking to people, making sure they understand the importance of testing. We are using a rapid antigen test there, so people will be able to get their results before they leave the airport.

“I think that provides security to them as well, that they know that they can go ahead and gather with the people they were planning to gather with, go to their final destination with some safety,’’ she said. “For anybody who does come forward and get tested and they’re negative, we will send home with them a test kit so they can test themselves again three to five days later.’’

The move comes as questions continue to loom about the recently discovered Omicron variant of COVID-19. Omicron was designated a “variant of concern’’ by the World Health Organization and by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the past two weeks.

The variant was first detected in South Africa, where it is blamed for a rapid surge in infections, and it has now spread to about three dozen countries, including the United States, where the first case was confirmed Wednesday in California. Additional cases have now been found in Minnesota and Colorado.

Ferrer said the idea at LAX is to offer testing for arriving passengers, not departing ones, who may face varying testing requirements depending on their final destination.

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