A week ago, President Donald Trump held a press conference in which he claimed that Google would be building a coronavirus detection website that would direct people to test sites. As we learned in the following days, that was not true. Verily, Google’s sister company launched such a site, but only for the Bay Area, and reportedly only offered to test to a very small number of people. Google, however, said it would launch some kind of website and after a little delay, it’s here.
Along with the website and potentially more important, Google will begin to provide more improved information cards for people looking for terms related to the coronavirus. There will be information tabs for symptoms, prevention, global statistics and relevant local information. It will look a bit like this:
The website is at google.com/covid19. It has helpful resources, including a card that mimics what you see above. The Google publication announcing the site says you can find “state-based information, safety and prevention tips, COVID-19-related search trends, and more resources for individuals, educators, and businesses.” Google emphasizes that it is obtaining information from “authorized” sources such as the WHO and the CDC.
Right now, it’s only available in English, but a Google spokesperson tells The Verge that support in Spanish will follow soon. The site was also designed with accessibility in mind, even with the largest fonts commonly used by Google.
The website has ASL videos, a global map showing confirmed cases by country, and lots of information on other Google relief efforts, plus some YouTube videos to feel good about.
As you read that description, however, you’ll notice that it doesn’t include what Trump originally claimed it would. The closest thing to finding a test is a drop-down menu that provides links to local websites; for example, choosing California provides a link to the California Department of Public Health.
Right now, the CDC has a “self-test” chatbot that Microsoft helped build, but the WSJ quoted an executive from a healthcare provider who put it in a realistic context: “It’s something consumers need now to help with the anxiety”.
In other words, many large tech companies are making efforts to provide coronavirus-related support, but none of them can solve some of the pandemic’s biggest problems: access to evidence and the impending crisis in our healthcare infrastructure.
At some point in the future, Google may provide a questionnaire and information on local test drive locations. But a spokesperson says the company will not do so until there is authoritative and reliable information on those sites. Unfortunately, that could take a long time to arrive.