By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Demand for COVID-19 testing has skyrocketed as Southern Californians return from their holiday trips and get ready to return to school and work.

County health departments have ramped up testing across the region, but Los Angeles County is going a step further by offering to mail free, at-home COVID nasal swab tests to its residents.

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Long lines at testing sites, even with appointments, brings back memories of last year’s devastating surge of COVID-19. But even though the Omicron variant is highly contagious – even among those who are vaccinated and boosted – public health officials say they are not seeing the hospitalizations and deaths that they saw at this time last year.

However, doctors report that serious cases appear to be on the rise, and unfortunately, more children are coming into emergency rooms with COVID-related respiratory problems.

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“So what we’re seeing in the emergency room is a lot of croup-type illness, a lot of bronchiolitis-type illness, caused by this Omicron variant, which is not a walk in the park for kids,” Dr. Michael Daignault, an emergency room doctor at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, said.

LAUSD, the nation’s second-largest school district, is requiring all students and staff undergo baseline testing before classes resume next week, regardless of a person’s vaccination status. Hours are being extended at all LAUSD district office testing sites, and testing is available by appointment or on a walk-in basis, depending on availability.

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District officials had hoped to dial back its rigorous testing protocols, with just unvaccinated students getting tested weekly starting in February. As of Monday, weekly testing will remain a requirement for all students and stuff through at least the end of January.