How Sean Penn Made the Biggest COVID-19 Testing Site in U.S.

In the actor and his Community Organized Relief Effort nonprofit, which has provided aid after natural disasters in Haiti and beyond, Los Angeles has found a key partner to reach maximum testing capabilities.
Courtesy of LA Mayor
Sean Penn with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

Testing and tracing have continually been cited by public health experts as crucial to mitigating the spread of COVID-19 as the crisis moves into summer. In Sean Penn and his Community Organized Relief Effort nonprofit, Los Angeles has found a partner to reach maximum testing capabilities.

In late May, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the opening of a new COVID-19 testing site at Dodger Stadium in partnership with CORE, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Live Nation, Red Rock Entertainment and the Los Angeles Fire Department. Operated by CORE and LAFD, this site has capacity to test 6,000 residents a day free of charge –– making it three times the size of any other location in L.A. County and said to be the largest testing site in the U.S.

CORE is already operating free COVID-19 testing sites across the United States with a focus on underserved communities, communities of color, first responders and essential workers. Co-founded by Penn and Ann Lee, CORE has spearheaded relief efforts following natural disasters in Haiti, the Bahamas and parts of the United States.

As for why the pandemic led CORE to act locally for the first time, Lee tells The Hollywood Reporter that with the rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases in “our own backyard,” they knew it was essential to save lives.

“Since we are not a large organization, we can be nimble and adaptable in creating solutions, even when it’s not the status quo. And there was nothing standard about coronavirus. This is an unprecedented threat that requires a collaborative approach. In late March when we first partnered with Mayor Garcetti, we identified a problem — medical workers and first responders were burdened with both testing and providing medical care. We knew we could alleviate this burden by operating testing sites that use mouth swabs versus the nose swabs that require a medical professional,” she says. “Our COVID-19 response has been focused specifically on testing because we feel very strongly that it is crucial to keeping our friends and family healthy. If you know your status, you can isolate and prevent the spread. We will continue to expand our testing efforts to as many communities as possible, for as long as this pandemic is an active threat.”

A version of this story first appeared in the June 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.