|Update 18May2020: I’ve heard from reputable sources that the Sacramento County drive-through testing (conducted at Cal Expo) no longer requires that you meet criteria before getting tested, but you still have to surrender your personal information to a private company to do so. However, I have had two patients try to get appointments and be told there were none available, and to check back later. You make appointments at the Verily web site as explained below.|
|Update 21April2020: LabCorp now has an at-home collection kit for a SARS-CoV-2 test, which has been approved by the FDA. (Warning: there are many kits being sold by spammers and other scum which are not FDA approved for diagnosing COVID-19; many are antibody tests which are almost certain to give false or misleading results). The LabCorp test is priced at $119 and should be available in the next few weeks, though you will probably need a doctor’s order to get one. Please let us know if you are interested in at-home testing.|
Drive-thru testing for novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19) infection is now (supposedly) available in Sacramento, but only through Project Baseline, the product of a private, for-profit corporation. There are caveats that you really should know about, so read below, but if you just can’t wait then you can get started at this website:
You can only get referred for testing through the above web site. The web site itself is run by Verily, which is a subsidiary of Alphabet, the company that owns Google.
They’re holding your privacy hostage! The only way to access the web site is by using a Google account that Google does their best to link to your actual identity (and they’re very good at it). For no sound technical reason, the site breaks if you try to access it using privacy-enhancing technologies such as Tor or NoScript. I was a medical student during the AIDS epidemic, and a major turnaround came when folks gained access to anonymous testing. It seems as though we didn’t learn anything from that.
Any “guarantees” about how they’ll protect your information are meaningless: governments around the world (including ours) are already demanding access to data held by private companies, ostensibly for the purpose of combating the pandemic, privacy policies be damned. (Today: COVID-19, tomorrow: child abduction, Friday: tax cheats.)
As things stand, you’re being compelled to sacrifice your privacy on the promise that if you meet some undefined criteria you might be referred for testing. Or you might just be told to stay home and avoid contact with anyone (but we’ll keep and use and share your personal data, thankyouverymuch) or you might be told to go to the ER (where they won’t have much information about how to help you, but you’ll get to be up close and personal with a very nice group of other potentially-infected folks in an enclosed space) or they might just send some public-health officers to your door (with the police backing them up) to discuss your options.
The amount of secrecy around this would make Alex Jones blush. The testing site is secret — you’re only given the address if you qualify for testing. Sacramento County (who presumably runs the testing) hasn’t released any statistics. The criteria for determining the advice you’ll be given is also a deep, dark secret. No statistics have been made available: How many people have they tested? One? Five thousand? Just the Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff? Testing has only been available (if at all) for a few days (announced 25March2020 on the County web site, but they don’t confirm that they’ve actually operational), but this is vital, urgent information and time is of the essence. We need to know, now, the number of folks being tested, the testing criteria, and the proportion of tests that are positive.
Absent this information, there is dangerous circular logic going on that will kill people. It goes like this:
“We only test people if they have a fever.”
“Because everyone who has tested positive has had a fever.”
“Do you test anyone who doesn’t have a fever?”
So of course everyone who tests positive has had a fever.
Those of us on the front lines, trying to advise people, need real data.
So we don’t know if this testing is real or just a PR stunt, but it certainly isn’t (yet) being conducted in a way that gives front-line medical providers any useful tools or respects the needs and dignity of the people.
Update 29March2020: Two patients have reported using the Project Baseline site thus far. Neither got referred for testing.