Data questioned
A statewide error has rendered data related to COVID-19 rates unreliable here in San Mateo County, officials say. Review file photo

San Mateo County officials announced Wednesday that the California Department of Health will begin limiting COVID-19 testing through Verily, which has been providing free tests through its Project Baseline. In the past, those testing sites, including one in Half Moon Bay, have been open to anyone with a reservation.

Testing will be given based on priority level, with hospitalized COVID-19 patients and their contacts in the first tier and symptomatic and high-risk people in the second group.

Tier 3 includes other essential workers. Tier 4, which would only be implemented after the state’s testing turnaround time improves to under 48 hours, would open to anyone. County Manager Mike Callagy announced the change at a press briefing, saying it is due to limited testing kits and to improve the turnaround time for results.

“The whole algorithms for testing for Verily and how you sign up for a test will change as we now transition out of this wholesale testing to a more specific data-driven set of individuals who are in need of testing,” Callagy said.

According to Callagy, asymptomatic residents or others who wish to be tested but no longer qualify through Verily will still be able to access COVID-19 testing through their primary care physician. He said the county is meeting with Verily this week to determine an altered testing strategy moving forward.

The change comes after Verily limited testing to just 500 per site per day because of shortage of test kits and a backlog in processing tests. Callagy said he hopes the more streamlined testing will help target high-risk populations and result in quicker turnaround for results.

Last week, Callagy said, 3,689 San Mateo County residents were tested, with 1,100 walkups and a no-show rate of 7 percent. The county declined to give more granular information about the testing done so far on the Coastside, such as the the number of tests and the positivity rate.

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