Why is it still almost impossible to schedule a COVID-19 test? (at least in Maskachusetts)

A friend woke up this morning with a 102-degree fever. He asked our chat group what the procedure was for getting a COVID-19 test in suburban Boston. Keep in mind that this is one of the epicenters of COVID-19 Karenhood. To minimize deaths tagged to COVID-19, no price is too high to pay in dollars, deaths due to shutdown non-COVID health care, inconvenience, and long-term deaths due to lockdown-related obesity, lack of education, poor mental health, etc. Healthy college and K-12 students are tested weekly, for example. Vaccine papers are checked in numerous situations, e.g., to attend college or a concert (folks say that preventing COVID-19 is their #1 priority and then crowd into a 2,700-person concert hall, relying on proven-ineffective cloth masks for protection). Schools in Boston were closed for more than a year. Certainly a big slice of the $10 trillion that the Feds have spent on coronapanic has been spent in Maskachusetts.

Nobel-winner Barack Obama handed tens of $billions of hard-earned tax dollars and gave them to health care providers who installed computer systems.

If we intersect the above two paragraphs, shouldn’t the result be a computer system that can tell a Massachusetts resident where to get a Covid test today? If not from the government (healthcare.gov was a rough development project!) then from a righteous private company?

We’re now nearly 2 years into 14 days to flatten the curve. The health care industry is fully computerized. The Internet monopolies such as Google and Facebook devote considerable effort to Karen’s propaganda campaign. Searching for “covid vaccine” in The Google:

Searching for “vaccine” in Facebook:

Facebook corrects vaccine misinformation. A physician friend posted “Flu variants yearly warrant new vax; yet #CDC pushes Covid “booster” -retreads”. A pilot friend posted “Mengele is admitting that these vaccines are not working. He knows something is coming, and he tries to protect his ass.” over a video of Saint Fauci. A physicist posts European data: “I had more than a year ago posted a study by the Italian ISS, published in August 2019, on those recurring peaks of excessive mortality in the previous decade. It showed that the magnitude of excessive deaths, among the same statistical population (over 65) and in most cases even with geographical correlations (areas of northern Italy) were comparable with COVID mortality. In my view, whoever is intellectually honest will admit from these data that lockdowns, vaccine mandates, etcetera, were and are not justified by the numbers.” An attorney: “My wife is a nurse in a hospital here in the Boise area. Not only are they letting nurses go for not having the vax, and bringing in travelling nurses who are not vaxxed, but they are paying the travellers more than twice as much as their full-time nurses. It is freaking insanity”.

Underneath all of these Facebook adds the following:

What if you try to use these titans of information technology to find a Covid test? Searching for “covid test” in Facebook yields instructions to wear a mask and an ad for CVS. Search for “covid test” in Google Maps yields nearby facilities that might do tests, but with no information about whether they have availability, require appointments, charge money, etc.

Since my friend isn’t feeling well, I tried to find him a test appointment. The various CVS stores are prominent in search results. When you follow the link from Google Maps it takes three clicks and typing in a ZIP code to get to a questionnaire:

I type fairly fast, but it took me roughly 2 minutes to get to a page of available locations:

The CVS site showed availability for today at various stores, inviting me to click on “Check for available times” but the result of the click was always “no available times”:

In Florida, it should be a lot simpler for Google and Facebook. They can highlight the government-run drive-through free testing centers that never seem to have a line and that don’t require any appointments. Yet this isn’t done. Instead, Google Maps shows urgent care clinics, pharmacies, etc. that may require appointments, payment, etc.

After $10 trillion has been spent, why should a person with a 102-degree fever have to spend more than 2 minutes on the Web to find a reasonably close and convenient COVID testing option?

Update: After a full day of web-searching and driving around, my friend scored a Binax rapid test kit (one-hour round-trip drive). Verdict: POSITIVE. Another success story for Moderna! (second shot six months ago) I think it is safe to assume that, without the vaccine, my friend would now be dead.


32 thoughts on “Why is it still almost impossible to schedule a COVID-19 test? (at least in Maskachusetts)

  1. I don’t understand why these test centers aren’t superspreader events. People who feel unwell mix with people who have to get a test because they are unvaccinated untouchables. There are often queues. If the test center is in a small tent or an overworked nurse makes mistakes it should be easy to get the plague.

    I can’t find any links about this subject on Google in English (perhaps the links are censored …).

    Vaccination mass events have their own advantages:


  2. Update: After hours of effort online and driving his feverish self into a physical store, my friend learned that the CVS web site was inaccurate regarding whether Binax self-tests were in stock at the Concord, Maskachusetts location. The store was, in fact, sold out. He also determined that the “government paid-for Beacon Project is 4 days out” (plus another 1-2 days for the result!) and “CVS is all booked even for antigen”.

    He abandoned the idea of getting a test.

    • Part of the chat exchange…

      Friend from the “South Shore”: I would do a home Binax test from CVS first.
      … a couple of pages of discussion ….
      Sick friend: Philip you were f***ing right! They don’t have the Binax test. All sold out. [CVS] Website is incorrect.
      Friend from the South Shore: Don’t use cvs
      Sick friend: You literally told me to go to CVS!

      I think our South Shore friend has a bright future in politics!

  3. 2 years ago I said I don’t understand why we bother testing for covid. I still don’t understand it. Maybe our fine host can explain it to this bird brain! Why would your friend get a covid test? We know he is sick with something. Unless he gets much worse and goes to a hospital what’s the point of driving across town and getting the test? Seems like a drag to make someone sick do all of that and also he might spread whatever he has to someone else while doing it. Wouldn’t it be wiser if he just took Advil and laid in bed for a few days to see if he got better? Later he could get an antibody test and remark to himself “oh that was covid”, but again I am not even sure what the point of that is!

    • TS: That’s a great question. If he knew that he had COVID-19, he could keep his kids home from their (almost fully vaccinated and definitely fully masked) school, refrain from further wandering of the aisles in CVS, isolate himself in a corner of the family’s 6,000-square-foot house, etc. He could literally #StopTheSpread in the same way that a butterfly flapping his/her/zir/their wings in Brazil can cause climate change in France.

    • He should want the test so he can run around, like a good Republican, saying, “It’s better to have had the virus than the vaccine!” and “Why aren’t they recognizing the benefits of getting the virus?!? I obviously don’t need any more vaccines!”

    • Mike, I would recommend the movie “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love covid 19” to you! Kiss Kiss!

    • If one is a believer in monoclonal antibodies (experimental authorization of course), there is required PCR test and a treatment window of 7-10 days.

      For a righteous person, a positive test would be a chance to admit personal failure and have a struggle session with his/her/zir/their family.

    • Anonymous: See a follow-up post for a debate among our merry band regarding the IV antibody treatment! Regarding the struggle session, he’s pretty sure that he got the plague at a kids’ indoor athletic event. Vaccine papers were checked at the door, both for the parents and the kids (experimental use authorization, so vaccination is purely voluntary for children, of course, so long as they don’t mind spending the rest of their childhood at home watching TV). Also, everyone had to wear the masks that have been proven to be somewhere between 0 and 11% effective. Since everyone was masked and vaccinated, the most logical conclusion is that it was a divine infection, kind of like the virgin birth of Jesus.

  4. philg, Why are you hanging out in Maskachusetts chat rooms? Gov. DeSantis is throwing campaign caps, get yours early!

  5. Given the state of national politics, I would encourage Governor DeSantis to stay where he is and continue to grow his power base. Florida is one of 30 states that has a State Guard. His investments in the Florida State Guard seem like a smart move to me.

    • PhilH: I am not sure how much power a Florida governor has. The philosophy here seems to be that government should be limited and, wherever possible, local. If you register your car, for example, you don’t deal with a massive state bureaucracy. You go to the nearest county tax collector’s office and deal with a county employee, not a state employee. Absent a call for a “special session,” the legislature in FL meets for only 60 days per year

  6. Recent datapoint: I had to have my sixth PCR test “negative” in order to be admitted to the hospital for a recent major surgery. The hospital is more than 80 miles from where I live. I said to my surgeon’s secretary: “It would be much more convenient if I could drive 12 miles to [other hospital] to have the test done, and they send the results to both of us. They have a drive-up, next-day PCR service. Can you arrange that?”

    What an ordeal! The hospital systems *do not communicate with each other*. Everything had to be done through a series of telephone calls, which took most of a day to accomplish. There appears to be NO WAY in Massachusetts for Doctor X at Major Healthcare to bring up a screen in the vaunted EPIC system and say: “Please schedule my patient, primary care doctor Knoevenagel, for a drive-up PCR test next Tuesday at 9:00 a.m.” Instead it was: “Find the hospital’s phone number. Call the hospital and ask for the COVID testers. FAX a form to them. Wait for a response. If the response doesn’t come, get on the phone and call the hospital again to find out why. Oops, they gave you the wrong FAX number. Use the new FAX number and make sure you reference both the Primary Care physician at Semimajor Healthcare and the surgeon at Major Healthcare. It’s the same insurance.”

    That went back and forth for most of a day. Finally I made the 12-mile drive and got my swab. There was nobody else in line, the place was virtually empty, but they got the results back within 48 hours and everything was OK.

    There’s no load balancing going on. All the little fiefdoms do not talk to each other.

    It’s like learning the Knoevenagel Condensation Reaction without knowing what nucleophilic addition is. This is 2021, in Massachusetts, with the Internet. We’re not in Emil Knoevenagel’s laboratory in 1890’s Germany, are we?


    • It’s almost as if we should have universal health care so we can have one centralized records database.

    • @Mike: I would settle for interoperability between existing health care systems and a record system that could be afforded for the price of a flip phone..

  7. I updated the original post. My friend put most of today into getting a test and eventually found an over-the-counter rapid test at a CVS (one-hour round-trip drive). As noted above, it came back positive. He was right at the 6-month point following his 2nd Moderna shot.

    • So now that he has a positive test, what will he do differently than if he had no test at all?

  8. “Dr” Phil:

    More fake news. Your text “proven-ineffective cloth masks” leads to a “definitive” study saying surgical masks reduce risk by 11% and cloth masks by 5%. With ~1m deaths in the US, 5% is 50,000 lives saved.

    • Mike: I think you’re misunderstanding the article from Nature and the underlying study. As noted in https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2021/11/29/stop-20-covid-illnesses-by-hassling-178322-people/ the difference in the number of illnesses between the study groups was small, e.g., only 20 infections over two months with 163,861 people in one group and 178,322 in the other. So the reason the Nature article summarizes the underlying study with “cloth masks fall short” is because the authors say “Although the point estimates for cloth masks suggests that they reduce risk, the confidence limits include both an effect size similar to surgical masks and no effect at all”.

      Suppose that the 5% isn’t simply statistical noise. Would an intervention that prevents 5% of infections over an 8-week period reduce cumulative COVID-19 deaths by 5%? Sure! You would just need God to come in at the end of the 8 weeks and sweep SARS-CoV-2 off the planet. If you can’t get this kind of assistance from God, however, the 5% reduction over 8 weeks just means that a handful of people who would have been infected in September will be infected in November.

      If you want to call an intervention that cuts infection by 5% over an 8-week interval “effective” there is no law against that. But imagine that there was a form of birth control that was equally “effective” (cutting pregnancies by 5% over an 8-week window). If you could persuade a community of humans to adopt this form of birth control, would you expect to come back at the end of one year and find a dramatic reduction in the number of pregnant people and/or birthing persons compared to the “no birth control” case? With no change in behavior, those who would have become pregnant people in the “no birth control” case would likely end up as pregnant people a few days or weeks later in the “effective (5%) birth control case”.

      (For a research paper related to the above hypothetical, see https://www3.nd.edu/~dhungerm/BH_School_Condoms.pdf in which the authors found “that access to condoms in schools increases teen fertility by about 10 percent.”)

    • Steve: I checked the Manchester clinic just now and they have openings for later today at $235 for a PCR test, results within 2 hours. Given the huge time-waste on the web sites of various Massachusetts vendors who turned out not to have availability, my friend would have saved a lot of time, actually, by just booking with the NH clinic and doing the two-hour round-trip drive to Manchester, NH. But, as you point out, if he is paying roughly half of his income in taxes, why should he have to pay $235 plus $100 in driving expenses and 2.25 hours lost from his work day? (0.25 hours to book; 2 hours of round trip driving, assuming no traffic) If we assume that $10 trillion was the correct amount to spend on coronapanic, why aren’t there neighborhood clinics like this everywhere, funded out of the $10 trillion coronapanic budget?

  9. In my city (Hyderabad, India), there are private clinics (authorized) that send people to visit home and collect samples for testing with some extra fees.
    The results are sent via SMS/WhatsApp (& also relayed to the local govt. I think).

    Otherwise, it is so inconvenient & risky to go all the way to the testing center to get this done (all the while the person is already weak & sick!)

    cant believe such a facility is not there in a place like Boston.

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