Google finally unveiled its coronavirus website today. Yes, that website, the one that U.S. President Donald Trump said Google was building that the company had no idea it was building. The website, while a good resource to obtain information on COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is nothing like what Trump described.
To recap, last week Trump and his team announced that Google was developing a nationwide coronavirus screening website. The president claimed that 1,700 Google engineers were working on the project and that they had “made tremendous progress.” Confusion ensued afterward, with Google hurriedly announcing that it was working on something vaguely similar to what Trump had described.
“We’re partnering with the U.S. government in developing a website dedicated to COVID-19 education, prevention, and local resources nationwide,” Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog post after Trump’s surprise announcement. “This includes best practices on prevention, links to authoritative information from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), and helpful tips and tools from Google for individuals, teachers and businesses.”
In the end, Google delivered a website that does what it said it would do, which just happens not to be what Trump or his team said it would do. In other words, it is not a COVID-19 screening website that provides users with a questionnaire about their symptoms and directs them to the nearest drive-through testing facility.
(Google’s sister company, Verily, did launch a site closer to what Trump described, but on a much smaller scale in the Bay Area).
Nonetheless, drive-through testing is not even available nationwide in the U.S. yet, although some sites have been popping up this week. According to USA Today, government officials stated that 47 drive-through testing sites will be set up in approximately 12 states over the next few days.
Instead, the Google COVID-19 website provides information about the disease, safety and prevention tips (including its Do The Five campaign), links to information about COVID-19 from the CDC and the WHO, a map of cases worldwide, YouTube videos on subjects such as cooking and exercising and a way to contribute to global relief efforts, among other resources.
As noted by the Verge, the only thing that could help people find a testing location is a drop-down menu near the top of the site that links to state health websites.
Google stated that it was launching the website in the U.S. Saturday and planned to launch it in more countries and in more languages over the coming days. The company will also update its website as more resources become available.
In addition, Google has also revamped its COVID-19 search experience. Per its blog announcing the website and other initiatives, it said that when people search for information related to COVID-19, they’ll now see links for resources from local and national health authorities as well as Twitter accounts from similarly reliable sources to help connect users with the latest local information, among others.
In the future, the Verge reports that Google may in fact provide a questionnaire and information about local drive-through testing locations, as Trump and team described. But a Google spokesperson told the Verge that the company won’t do that until there’s authoritative and trustworthy information on those sites.