INVESTIGATIVE

Google Delays Launching Coronavirus Website

Google’s CEO promised to unveil a new webpage late Monday “dedicated to COVID-19," but the site still hasn’t launched

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Google is delaying the launch of a new informational website aimed at updating the public on the potentially deadly coronavirus, which has infected nearly 200,000 people globally. The webpage, which Google’s CEO said would go live “late Monday,” was first announced last week by President Trump, who said the interactive site would help users across the country determine whether they should get tested for the coronavirus and, when necessary, direct people to testing centers closest to them. Trump’s description of the site, however, seems to have conflated Google’s efforts with a completely different project being undertaken by Google’s sister company, Verily.

In a blog post on Sunday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the upcoming website would be “dedicated to COVID-19” and provide “education, prevention, and local resources nationwide. The screening questionnaire and the feature to direct users to nearby testing centers, which were both listed by President Trump as features of the site, were not mentioned in Google’s description of its yet-to-be unveiled web page. Instead, Google noted those features were to be included in a website launched by its sister company. Since then, Verily launched a webpage that aimed to help users determine their eligibility for testing and also allowed them to schedule an appointment for testing. That site was part of a small-scale pilot program in just two Bay Area counties: San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Within just one day of being online, the site appeared to be inundated and by Monday was no longer allowing users to make testing appointments.

“Please check back later,” the site now says. “Appointments will continue to expand through this program as we scale capacity in the near future.”

The feature to direct users to nearby sites was the president's main focus when describing the webpage during a press conference at the White House last Friday.

Google is helping to develop a website. It’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location.”

President Trump

Following the President's announcement last week, Google tweeted out a statement in an effort to clarify that its sister company, Verily, was actually the one spearheading the screening effort, which is still in the "early stages of development."

During last week's press conference, Trump wasn’t the only one to tout the Google website. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, also detailed how the website would feature a “screening questionnaire” and the option to schedule testing appointments that would yield results within 36 hours.

We want to also announce this new approach to testing, which will start in the screening website up here, facilitated by Google, where clients and patients and people that have interest can go, fill out a screening questionnaire — move down for symptoms or risk factors, yes. They would move down this and be told where the drive-thru options would be for them to receive this test. The labs will then move to the high-throughput automated machines to be able to provide results in 24 to 36 hours.

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator

Google has yet to reply to request for comment concerning the new launch date for its coronavirus website.

While the president did not provide an exact date on when he expects the Google site to go live, last week he said it would be “very quickly done,” also adding it would be “unlike websites of the past.”

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