LOS ANGELES, CA — Los Angeles became the first major American city to offer free coronavirus testing for everyone Wednesday. In a major shift aimed at gauging the full extent of LA’s coronavirus outbreak, Los Angeles will offer free COVID-19 testing for any LA County resident whether or not they have symptoms of the disease, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced.

Since the start of the outbreak, containing the virus has been a challenge due to the lack of testing. Except for front-line workers such as healthcare professionals and grocery employees, coronavirus testing in the county thus far has been limited to people displaying symptoms of the virus.

But Garcetti said the city now has the testing capacity to provide tests for anyone in the county who wants to get one. Gov. Newsom and LA County health officials have stressed the widespread testing will be key to lifting stay-home orders.

“We have been opening up each night to more and more people, and still at the end of the day we have those tests that are leftover,” Garcetti said. “We had the confidence that we could move forward (with testing more people).”

The mayor said although Los Angeles could be the first major city in the United States to offer free COVID-19 testing to any of its residents, not all of the millions of people who live here will be able to rush to the testing centers overnight.

People must still apply online for an appointment by visiting coronavirus.lacity.org/testing. Priority will still be given to people showing symptoms and to first responders.

During his nightly briefing, Garcetti initially said that testing would be made available only to Los Angeles city residents, regardless of symptoms. His office later clarified that the testing is available to anyone in the county.

The city’s COVID-19 testing website states that, in partnership with the County of Los Angeles and actor Sean Penn’s Community Organized Relief Effort program, it is providing free COVID-19 testing to “all Los Angeles County residents.”

About 1 million antibody tests are coming to the Los Angeles area, Garcetti said, but those tests don’t show whether someone is currently infectious. The blood serum tests monitor a person’s level of antibodies, which is the best indicator available as to whether someone had the virus but recovered from it.