The United States this afternoon declared a national emergency to better respond to COVID-19. During that press conference, President Trump and officials announced that Google was building a screening website to help with increased coronavirus testing. It has since emerged that what’s actually being developed is much more limited in scope.
Update: Google is not building the nationwide “Screening website” described by President Trump. Instead, Alphabet division Verily is only developing a “tool to help triage individuals.”
We are developing a tool to help triage individuals for Covid-19 testing. Verily is in the early stages of development, and planning to roll testing out in the Bay Area, with the hope of expanding more broadly over time. We appreciate the support of government officials and industry partners and thank the Google engineers who have volunteered to be part of this effort.
According to The Verge, this effort just directs people to coronavirus testing facilities in the Bay Area. It will be hosted by Verily’s existing Baseline project to map human health and run medical studies. Originally intended for health care workers, it will now be available to the general public over the coming days. Google hopes to expand it “more broadly over time.”
The Alphabet project is not the screening website described by Trump and other officials. That unknown effort features a symptoms questionnaire and can return the results of “drive thru” testing.
Meanwhile, Trump claimed earlier that 1,700 Google engineers were working on the website. That count is actually just how many employees volunteered to build tools combating the coronavirus. A memo from Sundar Pichai (via CNBC) provides more details on what’s actually being created:
‘As more test kits become available, the planners are looking to develop a pathway for public health and healthcare agencies to direct people to our Baseline website, where individuals who are at higher risk can be directed to testing sites based on the latest guidance from public health authorities,’ Pichai said in the memo.
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