The Google coronavirus website promised by President Donald Trump is rolling out to a couple more California locations.
On Monday, Alphabet-owned Verily and the Office of the Governor of California announced that they ramped up capacity of the Project Baseline Covid-19 Program to get Californians tested for coronavirus. With two new testing sites and a self-appointment booking function, they “expect to be able to serve thousands more across four counties in California.”
In a press conference on March 13, President Trump touted Google’s efforts to “develop a website, it’s gonna be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location.”
The problem? Trump’s remarks caught Verily by surprise, since the project was still in development.
The actual Verily site launched a few days later, with limited testing in parts of California. The portal website prompts visitors to take a screening questionnaire to see if they meet the criteria for getting a coronavirus test. If so, they can schedule an appointment.
When it did get up and running, the site ran into problems. One day after the site’s launch last Sunday, March 16, it had already reached capacity.
“Unfortunately, we are unable to schedule more appointments at this time,” the site read at the time. “Appointments will continue to expand through this program as we scale capacity in the near future. Please check back later.”
Verily says it has increased capacity by 20x from its launch. It has also worked with the government to open and manage two new testing sites, one in Riverside and one in Sacramento. At launch, it ran two sites in the Bay Area counties of Santa Clara and San Mateo that tested more than 1,200 people.
On its website, Verily uses testing criteria from the federal government, and uses the resources of a physician network to approve whether a person can get tested. For the actual physical locations, it partnered with medical personnel from two companies to run the testing sites. It acquires the tests from lab companies, and has Quest Diagnostics process the tests.
In addition to running the web portal, Verily is designing the physical test sites, which contain a command center for “quick decision making,” along with “hot zones” that only medical personnel in protective gear can access. This design is meant to keep people safe while enabling efficiency.
“We are working to rapidly expand testing in every way that we can,” the website reads. “Please check back soon as we add more testing sites and may expand eligibility criteria.”
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