Two month ago, on March 13, President Trump stood in the Rose Garden surrounded by representatives from Target, Walgreens, Walmart, and CVS, to announce the arrival of a new era in COVID-19 testing. Google, he said, was developing a website that would allow individuals to readily access tests by screening them for symptoms and pointing them to a network of drive-in testing sites.
From the site, Vice-President Mike Pence said, “you’ll be directed to one of these incredible companies that are going to give a little bit of their parking lot so that people can come by and do a drive-by test.”
The Google-run nationwide screening website did not exist, and there had been no plan to make one before the president announced it. A few hiccups later, Google did launch a portal that provides visitors with “state-based information, safety and prevention tips, search trends related to COVID-19, and further resources for individuals, educators and businesses.”
What about the nationwide network of pharmacy-based drive-in sites? CVS opened its first testing site in the parking lot of a store located in Massachusetts a week after Trump’s address, a spokesperson said. Five large-scale rapid result testing sites are operating on parking lots in Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Rhode Island, testing around 30,000 people each week.
The spokesperson added that the chain is on track to open up to 1,000 testing sites at select CVS Pharmacy drive-through locations around the country by the end of May.
A Target spokesperson pointed to a single testing site, on the parking lot of their Chula Vista store in California. A spokesperson for Walmart said that as of May 8, the corporation had 72 sites operating in 20 states; a map on the Walmart website shows no sites in West Coast states or in the major metropolitan areas of the Northeast. The Walgreens website says “testing is only available in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin with more sites coming soon”; Walgreens did not respond to a request for comment.
Even as the pharmacies work to expand testing with input from federal and state health officials, Google’s coronavirus website—google.com/covid19—still doesn’t direct people to testing sites as the president claimed it would.
“In most states across the country, people can now find COVID-19 testing centers using Google Search,” said a spokesperson for Google. “Working with state governments, public health agencies, healthcare providers and third-party data sources, we’re providing easy access to this information and guidance on how to access testing.”
It’s debatable if these sites, while better than nothing, are indicative of the federal government doing enough to bolster the amount of testing. During a Senate hearing yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert, said the U.S. can expect a second wave if testing is not lifted to adequate levels. And, as of yet, the country has no nationwide plan to achieve the necessary levels of testing. Between the March 13 press conference and May 13, the death toll in United States from the coronavirus went from 41 to more than 83,200.