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Google says it’s building Trump’s coronavirus website it didn’t know it was building

Published Mar 15th, 2020 1:35PM EDT
Google Coronavirus Website
Image: Olly Curtis/Future/Shutterstock

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  • Google this weekend announced that it’s working with the US government on a nationwide COVID-19 coronavirus information website.
  • The company was caught off-guard by Trump’s revelation during Friday’s national emergency announcement that Google was developing such a website.
  • Google said at the time that the only website in development was actually made by Verily, and it wasn’t supposed to be a service available nationwide. Now, however, Google says it is indeed building a site like the one Trump described.
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President Donald Trump said on Friday that Google was working on a new coronavirus screening site part of the administration’s measures to combat the COVID-19 epidemic in the US. The revelation that some 1,700 Google engineers were developing the site came after Trump declared the novel coronavirus a national emergency. Google was caught off-guard at the time, and reports that followed revealed that Google wasn’t working on any sort of site and was surprised to see Trump’s detail anything like it. Trump’s claim seemed to be partly true, as Alphabet sister company Verily was indeed working on a triage tool for COVID-19 testing, but the site was in the early stages of development. It wasn’t supposed to be a nationwide tool for COVID-19 testing, either.

Here’s the initial response from Verily on Trump’s announcement:

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.

The Verily tool was targeting healthcare workers, the company revealed in a follow-up statement. Trump’s statement made it sound like something a lot more advanced than that, capable of assisting authorities nationwide:

I want to thank Google. Google is helping to develop a website. It’s gonna 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. We have many, many locations behind us, by the way. We cover this country and large parts of the world, by the way. We’re not gonna be talking about the world right now, but we cover very, very strongly our country. Stores in virtually every location. Google has 1,700 engineers working on this right now. They have made tremendous progress.

Since then, however, Google announced that it will indeed be working with the US government on a nationwide website “that includes information about COVID-19 symptoms, risk and testing information.”

Here’s the full statement from Google, as was posted on its @Google_Comms Twitter handle in a series of tweets:

We are fully aligned and continue to work with the US Government to contain the spread of COVID-19, inform citizens, and protect the health of our communities.

Google is partnering with the US Government in developing a nationwide website that includes information about COVID-19 symptoms, risk, and testing information.

This is in addition to other measures we are taking, including: a Google “home page promotion” to promote greater awareness of simple measures citizens can take to prevent the spread of the disease.

Work being done by our sister company Verily to launch a pilot website that will enable individuals to do a risk assessment and be scheduled for testing at sites in the Bay Area.

Promoting authoritative information through Google Search and YouTube; taking measures to protect users from misinformation, including phishing, conspiracy theories, malware and misinformation.

Rolling out free access to our advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally until 7/01/20; advancing health research and science; and financially supporting global relief efforts

Google hasn’t revealed an actual URL for the nationwide site, nor did it offer any launch info. However, given the gravity of the situation, it’s likely that the first version of the site will launch soon.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.