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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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A tedious tale about testing

Uploaded: Dec 15, 2020
NOTE: Since this blog was posted late afternoon, 12/15, I was able to talk to someone at the city. The Palo Alto Art Center will soon be closed. Two testing tests a month will start at Mitchell, beginning in January. The Jan. 8 date is correct. Future dates are now posted on the city's web site, www.cityofpaloalto.org.

When Palo Alto announced that it was going to have free coronavirus testing twice a month, I thought that was great. I was proud of our city for doing something so good for residents during this terrible pandemic period that keeps on powering up.

And recently, with the infections climbing, I wondered if this city could have the testing three or four times a month -- at least until the virus incidents decline.

At the Dec. 12 city council meeting, Mayor Ed Shikada announced the test site would be moved from the Palo Alto Art Center to the Mitchell Park Community Center, and the tests would still be twice a month. Fine.

So I went to the city's home page, and on the right was a big banner listing of Coronavirus. It said the next testings would be Dec. 16 at the Art Center, Jan. 8 and Feb. 5 at Mitchell. One additional January date has been added. Click on the date to schedule an appointment. Appointments are first available a week in advance, and can be booked 3 or 4 days ahead if there are still openings.

And to make an appointment, well, that's where the small problems began. I clicked on "make an appointment." Click. The next window said, "schedule an appointment." Click. The next window asked if I have any of the following 10 symptoms -- shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, etc.). No. Click. Next: Have I had COVID-19 in the past three months? No. In the last 14 days...? We're familiar with these questions by now.

But the questions went on. Have I contacted my provider? No. Nevertheless, I was asked, Who is your provider and what is the address and telephone number? Next question: "I live in a..." (10 choices). "Do I work with any of the following?" No. "Do I work in any of the following sectors and have frequent contact with the following?" No. Next, social risk -- eaten in a restaurant? Had a friend over? Used public transportation? Etc. Next: Medical risk. Are you obese, have a lung or heart problem, are you pregnant? etc. Ten items.

So I finally was asked for my e-mail address. Gave it to them. They sent me to a scheduling link at my email address. I opened up email. And there was my scheduling button to push.

344 Tully Road, (Parking lot across from Gate B and Blue Arch)
San Jose, CA
17555 Peak Avenue, (Park and Walk inside)
Morgan Hill, CA
1325 East Calaveras Boulevard, (Park and Walk inside)
Milpitas, CA
500 Castro Street, (Park and Walk inside)
Mountain View, CA

Three sites were closed, including the Palo Alto Art Center. I found I could have an appointment in Milpitas the next day at 10 a.m. or three days later in Cupertino. No phone numbers were available.

On one of these attempts to reach a live person, the city's website suggested calling city hall, and, of course, the telephone tree instantly answered. "If you want Parks and Recreation, Press #1, if you want Finance, press #...I can't remember the order or the digit to push, but it went to #8, which was the city manager's office. I pushed that and got the Planning & Transportation office. I tried again, same Planning office. And no live voice actually answered anything, because practically all city employees were working from home because of the COVID-19.

It goes full circle, doesn't it.

Obviously, the city signed on to a bigger testing appointment system, the Fulgent Booking System. The concept is great; the execution (i.e. using it) is time consuming (18 minutes total). Very definitely not user friendly.

The problems I encountered are fixable. The system should be streamlined: ask fewer questions (no, I am not pregnant), have a better way to make a local appointment before the system goes county-wide, and since this is all by phone, questions like who have you been recently exposed to are moot a week later.

And it's a shame the city's own telephone tree can't even give me the city manager's office. Has this been true for the last six months? Do city officials try to use their own system?

I know this has been a tedious rendition of my experience trying to sign on to get a COVID-19 test, and I apologize for the trite details, but efficiency seems to be diminishing these days.

Wikipedia can't do this to Palo Alto! I went on to their website to look up Palo Alto's square miles and toward the top a question,what the Spanish words "Palo Alto" mean in English.. "Tall tree," I said to myself. But Wikipedia said "Big Stick"

What an image letdown for such a wonderful, elegant, vibrant, fun community. Just think of telling your faraway friends, "I live in Big Stick, CA 94301.

Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Dec 15, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

I agree they should ask fewer questions. My 57 year old brother had to have a Covid-19 test, and was rather taken aback when he had to answer whether or not he was pregnant. Goodness... I hope not.

Posted by Rick Cabello, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Dec 15, 2020 at 5:09 pm

Rick Cabello is a registered user.

I respectfully beg to differ.

Tho “tedious", your article is informative and useful.

I want you to know that one person has saved twenty minutes; thanks to you.

Which means your article has already paid off. Anyone else reading it will have saved time similarly; thus adding to the value or worth of your words.

So, in summary:

Thank you. Good job


grampa, virgo

60 year resident of Shoreline West


Posted by Rick Cabello, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Dec 15, 2020 at 5:22 pm

Rick Cabello is a registered user.

Regarding Tall Trees of Palo Alto.

Your observation of the name of the town north of Mountain View is humorous; yet, technically, accurate.

Given the historic and linguistic angles, one might refer to the home of The Cardinal as Arbol Alto, if Tall Tree was intended.


I just like how you write.

Thank you.

Saint Francis, ‘79


Posted by jc, a resident of College Terrace,
on Dec 15, 2020 at 5:30 pm

jc is a registered user.

Shocked to learn during last night's council meeting that PAMF is refusing to give COVID tests unless you first demonstrate to your doctor you have actual symptoms and get a referral.

If you know you were or might have been exposed but are one of those people who are asymptomatic, it appears that PAMF is perfectly happy for you to go about your business infecting other people.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Dec 15, 2020 at 5:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Until EVERY home has government provided rapid test ability we will not stop this pandemic.

Posted by Old Steve, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Dec 16, 2020 at 3:51 pm

Old Steve is a registered user.

Remember PAMF is now part of a much larger network. Maybe some system wide policy is at work so they don't get overwhelmed. My provider does parking lot drive through tests, appointment easy on line, ten minutes plus travel time for the tests. Now the 3-5 day wait for results. Questions are all standardized, how does a phone menu know anything about age or gender?

Posted by Lindsay Joye, a resident of Ventura,
on Dec 16, 2020 at 5:18 pm

Lindsay Joye is a registered user.

UC Davis offers FREE saliva COVID tests to residents of the City of Davis!
Can Stanford offer same?
Source: Web Link

Posted by marc665, a resident of Midtown,
on Dec 17, 2020 at 8:49 am

marc665 is a registered user.

re:jc. Given that Liz Kniss says that she has been tested 25 times, I can understand that some places are making sure that the people that might really need a COVID-19 test can get it and get their results in a timely fashon.

I don't think that people that are not on the front lines of health care need to be tested multiple times a month.

If Liz Kniss is that worried, she can stock up on the new at home test and take on every day if she is that worried.


Posted by marc665, a resident of Midtown,
on Dec 17, 2020 at 8:49 am

marc665 is a registered user.

re:jc. Given that Liz Kniss says that she has been tested 25 times, I can understand that some places are making sure that the people that might really need a COVID-19 test can get it and get their results in a timely fashon.

I don't think that people that are not on the front lines of health care need to be tested multiple times a month.

If Liz Kniss is that worried, she can stock up on the new at home test and take on every day if she is that worried.


Posted by Online Name, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Dec 18, 2020 at 12:29 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

1) I just got a cell phone alert from the county saying something like Severe Warning. Cases are escalating. Stay Home Unless Going Out is necessary."

2) Stanford Med doctors are protesting because the tests are being given to the wrong people. ttps://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Stanford-doctors-protest-vaccine-plan-saying-15814502.php?fbclid=IwAR2OaMonetdlNhuqaJC7xF4lyn-A3zs5whovefsbmqmaAyCLG6ph4QKypjY

3) Sutter/PAMF was recently the topic of a 60 Minutes expose for over-charging and under-serving patients. I'm still steaming at how long it took them to get their workers to wear masks after we noted HORRIBLE safety violations and then they sent our a note a full month later (in mid April) saying they're now requiring workers to mask up as if they expected to be congratulated.

4) I tried to report them through the county health dept and found you could only report retail. I tried various other avenues and finally got someone at the city to write a note saying "we've conveyed your concerns."

5) I called the city with a covid question about something unclear in the newsletter. In spite of saying CALL US. We're Here To Help, they referred me to the county which had made the unclear statement originally. They finally referred me to a reference librarian!

For this we pay the big bucks. Shameful.

Posted by BP, a resident of Barron Park,
on Dec 18, 2020 at 8:02 pm

BP is a registered user.

So Liz Kniss took the place of 24 other people who could have had the test. Shows how selfish she really is?

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest,
on Dec 20, 2020 at 10:48 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is a great example of where people took matters into their own hands and made a difference with testing:

Web Link

Local governments have missed a great opportunity to make a real difference in stopping this virus and, to a large part, they have been passive observers.

Where have you seen a city council take the position that our number one priority is becoming a Covid free community? While their citizens are dying those councils are spending their time debating trivial issues.

Posted by Anneke, a resident of Professorville,
on Dec 20, 2020 at 12:32 pm

Anneke is a registered user.

I would like to see cheap or free (government funded) rapid home result tests become available to everyone. That would help curb the pandemic as well as grow the economy immediately.

Posted by TimR, a resident of Downtown North,
on Dec 23, 2020 at 11:27 pm

TimR is a registered user.

Back in August, I scheduled a test at a Flugent site using a link on the SCC webpage. Couldn't have been easier, and the testing site itself only had two other people getting a test, so I was in and out of there in a matter of minutes. I did have to drive down to Morgan Hill, and the confirmation email from Flugent sent me to the wrong location. But people are nice down there, and I eventually found the correct location.

So it sounds like Palo Alto paid a bunch of money to make things much worse, which figures. It might be time to give up on all this rigamarole, and distribute at-home antigen tests, which are better at identifying when/if people are infectious anyway. But not without wasting the requisite amount of money first!

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