Sean Penn and his kids partner with Los Angeles to take over drive-through COVID-19 testing

His nonprofit team plans to run three of Los Angeles' six testing sites.

April 03, 2020, 4:10 PM

Sean Penn is no stranger to responding in a crisis.

His nonprofit organization CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) started Haiti after the devastating 7.0 earthquake in 2010.

CORE has responded to crises all over the world, from The Bahamas to Puerto Rico and in the U.S. in North Carolina and Florida.

Penn, 59, and his team at CORE are partnering with the city of Los Angeles to take over the drive-through test sites so the first responders currently working them can get back on the front lines.

“What is going to be most valuable in this pandemic of what we as citizen organizations can do is to get the professionals relieved of duties that are beneath their training sets ... so they can get back on the street,” Penn told ABC News.

There are more than 4,000 COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County.

“We're hunkered down, hoping this isn't a tsunami phenomenon where right now the water's receding before we're all swallowed up by a tidal wave. We don't want Los Angeles to be in the same situation New York City's in right now,” Dr. Marc Eckstein, the Los Angeles Fire Department's medical director, said.

CORE's team plans to run three of of Los Angeles' six testing sites by the end of the week. Their staff and volunteers, including Penn's two kids, are in the so-called “hot zone,” helping to administer self-swab tests.

“Both of my kids are working in the hot zone line … they are very service-oriented people themselves and there was no keeping them off it,” Penn said.

CORE staff is sharing everything they have learned in terms of testing protocol and costs of equipment to encourage other organizations to get involved.

“We play a role and have a niche because we are small and we are fast that we can do things first, take on the risk, but then we can’t take it to scale -- we need those partners to then take it to scale,” Ann Lee, CEO of CORE, told ABC News. “Everyone needs to do what they can. And getting the first responders out to do the skilled work out on the streets for whatever's coming in the next few weeks is the most important thing. We can do this, and so we will."

LA County is currently running 2,000 COVID-19 tests a day and more than 10,000 tests have been completed so far. Results are usually available in one to two days.

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