Sean Penn Gets Tested for Coronavirus

On Friday, actor Sean Penn was tested for COVID-19 — the novel coronavirus. Penn is heading a charity organization called the Community Organized Relief Effort (C.O.R.E.) to fund testing facilities throughout Malibu, California. In photos published by TMZ on Friday, he was one of their test subjects.

The pictures show Penn at an outdoor test facility getting swabbed on Friday. The actor leaned back in a folding chair as a person in head-to-toe protective gear took a sample from his nostril. Another picture showed Penn with a cloth face mask on afterwards, apparently waiting for his results. He is hoping to help make testing freely and widely available throughout southern California.

Penn is working closely with C.O.R.E., which is in turn working with the City of Los Angeles, and with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. They are organizing drive-through testing facilities free of charge — a step that experts say is vital to any hope of reopening public spaces before a vaccine for COVID-19 is available.

Penn has reportedly said that he hopes C.O.R.E. will set the standard for other communities and cities around the country. Testing is still hard to come by in many places around the country, and even where it is, it is nestled in doctors' offices and hospitals — potentially dangerous places for infection. Outdoor facilities like the one Penn was at can help reduce the risk of spreading the virus from person to person.

Other parts of the country are having difficulty establishing testing practices on this level. On Saturday morning, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference, saying that the issue in his state was not a lack of knowledge but a lack of material resources.

"The more you test, the more information, the more you can reopen society," Cuomo said, according to a report by CNN. "The trick with testing is not that we don't know how to do it, we've done it better in this state than almost any other state, almost any other country. It's bringing this up to scale."

Cuomo explained the supply chain for the most scarce element in coronavirus testing: "reagents." He said that the necessary reagents are manufactured by private laboratory equipment manufacturers, who sell them to smaller labs, who in turn sell them to hospitals for public use. He said that once they have a bulk supply of reagents, New York hospitals are prepared to scale up testing.

"They bought the machine. They have the machine. They have the test. But they need the reagents to do a higher volume of tests," Cuomo said.

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The World Health Organization warned that the presence of antibodies in a person's blood do not necessarily determine whether they are immune to COVID-19, which means people who have already had it may be in danger of contracting it again. Therefore, the only way public places will be able to reopen at all before a vaccine is available is with widespread, frequent testing and contact tracing.

For the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the CDC's website.