Google and government officials on Sunday sought to clarifythe search giant’s parent company Alphabet is working on to help people find coronavirus testing.
The confusion began on Friday, when President Donald Trump announced Google is working with the White House and private sector partners on a website to give people information about coronavirus testing. Trump unveiled the project during an address at the White House, where he declared a national state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than an hour later, Google tweeted that Verily, the life sciences arm of Alphabet, is “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.”
There seemed to be a disconnect between the two announcements, especially over timing and scope. Trump said 1,700 Google engineers were working on the project, while Verily only has around 1,000 employees. It turns out Trump had “oversold” and “inflated the concept,” according to a report Saturday by the New York Times.
Over the weekend, Google and government officials tried to untangle the situation. Google followed up with a tweet confirming it’s “partnering with the US Government in developing a nationwide website that includes information about COVID-19 symptoms, risk and testing information.”
Verily on Sunday said it’s partnering with the California governor’s office for the website as well, and that Californians will be able to start taking online screener surveys starting Monday, March 16. The software tool will be hosted through Verily’s Project Baseline, an initiative to advance clinical research.
In a press conference Sunday, California Governor Gavin Newsom said the website will direct people to two testing sites in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
“We hope that this partnership can scale, and we believe it will be a national model,” he said. “We are very encouraged by this partnership, very enthusiastic to finally announce it. I know there’s been some conversations about it in the media.”
The effort comes as the coronavirus pandemic has severely impacted everyday life across the globe. At Google and Alphabet, all North American employees have been asked to work from home, and the company canceled its annual Google I/O developer conference. The confab, which had been scheduled for May, is Google’s biggest event of the year.