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[Slashdot] - Verily's COVID Testing Program Halted in San Francisco and Oakland

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Amid fanfare in March, California officials celebrated the launch of a multimillion-dollar contract with Verily -- Google's health-focused sister company -- that they said would vastly expand COVID testing among the state's impoverished and underserved communities. But seven months later, San Francisco and Alameda counties -- two of the state's most populous -- have severed ties with the company's testing sites amid concerns about patients' data privacy and complaints that funding intended to boost testing in low-income Black and Latino neighborhoods instead was benefiting higher-income residents in other communities. From a report: San Francisco and Alameda are among at least 28 counties, including Los Angeles, where California has paid Verily to boost testing capacity through contracts collectively worth $55 million, according to a spokesperson for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. About half of them have received COVID tests through six mobile units that travel among rural areas. Gov. Gavin Newsom has heralded the investment as a game changer in addressing persistent inequities in access to COVID testing across the state that tend to fall along lines of ethnicity and income. The goal, he said in April, touting six new Verily testing sites, was to "make sure we're truly testing California broadly defined, not just parts of California and those that somehow have the privilege of getting ahead of the line." Yet the roadblocks for getting underrepresented populations to use the program soon became apparent to Alameda County officials. In a June letter to California Secretary of Health Mark Ghaly, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and other members of the county's COVID-19 Racial Disparities Task Force raised numerous concerns about the Verily protocols.

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