Coronavirus testing is a confusing and challenging topic in the U.S., and Google knows that. That’s why the next time you search for a topic in Google related to covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, you’ll also see information on more than 2,000 testing centres in 43 states in the U.S.
According to the Verge, Google is only displaying information about specific testing centres in states whose locations have been approved for publishing by health authorities. For that reason, this new feature excludes information about specific testing centres in Connecticut, Maine, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon and Pennsylvania. The company is displaying this information in a new “Testing” tab in the red sidebar, which contains a variety of information about covid-19.
You can get to the information on testing centres in your area by clicking on “Coronavirus testing centres” in the section under the search bar. Strangely, it didn’t show up when we tested it in Virginia, although that’s not one of the states excluded from showing specific information.
Per 9to5Google, this will lead you to a map with centres and their entry requirements, address, and operating hours. Google states that it is getting testing information from government agencies, public health departments, or directly from healthcare institutions.
In addition to displaying testing location information, Google is also providing other testing resources. This includes a link to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC)’s Coronavirus Self-Checker, also known as “Clara,” an assessment bot created in partnership with Microsoft that aims to help people worried about possible infection determine their next steps.
In the company’s new testing tab, Google is recommending that users talk to a healthcare provider if they believe they should be tested. It also links to local health authority guidance and encourages users to call the testing site ahead of time to confirm that they can get tested.
Google isn’t alone in its quest to improve access to testing information. Apple is also displaying coronavirus testing centre information on its Apple Maps app. In the app, users can see whether the testing centre is available via drive-through or whether it’s in a parking lot or inside a building.
Curiously, this is the closest Google has gotten to building the nationwide “coronavirus screening site” president Donald Trump announced the company was building, which Google had no intention to build until Trump mentioned that it was working on one. The company did eventually unveil a website with information about covid-19 shortly afterward.
Nonetheless, even this new search feature with coronavirus testing site information is not what Trump described. To start off, it’s not a dedicated screening website. Additionally, although Google is providing information on nearby testing locations, it is not performing the screening, the CDC bot is.
That’s the least of our problems now, however. According to researchers at Harvard University, if the U.S. wants to reopen safely by mid-May, it needs to perform 500,000 to 700,000 daily tests between now and then. This month, an average of 146,000 people have been tested per day on a national level.