Google is helping the U.S. government build a website to speed testing for the coronavirus, President Donald Trump said at a news conference.
However, shortly after the president’s comments, Google indicated that the effort by its Verily life sciences subsidiary is far more limited than the president indicated and that it is nowhere near ready for a nationwide debut.
“We are developing a tool to help triage individuals for Covid-19 testing,” Google said on Twitter. 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.
The website will help people figure out if they need testing and direct them to the closest location, which will include drive-through testing centers, Trump said. Alphabet Inc.’s Google has roughly 1,700 engineers working on the project, he added.
Verily has partnered in the past with biotech companies to track and combat widespread diseases, including the Zika virus.
On March. 3, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat told Congress that the agency was using Google location data for “travel patterns and for other means.” She didn’t provide more details and Google and the CDC have not commented on this.
Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai has sent a steady stream of memos to his employees in recent weeks, calling on them to rise to the challenge of helping people communicate and access the best information during the pandemic.
The company has aggressively intervened in some of its most popular online services to limit the spread of hoaxes and misinformation and provide its users with helpful and accurate health information. Google searches related to the virus trigger an “SOS Alert,” which shows updates from mainstream news publications and health authorities ahead of regular search results.
Update: This article was updated from the original with a comment from Google.
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