Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Alphabet website for novel coronavirus screening and testing is now live

The platform is currently limited to test locations in the United States.

Decades of biology go into Google’s work on COVID-19 coronavirus

Alphabet's Verily has launched a website to provide US citizens with information on COVID-19 and available screening facilities. 

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The website, launched under Project Baseline, offers advice for consumers who wish to be tested for the novel coronavirus. 

The respiratory illness has spread in recent weeks to countries across the globe, leading to event cancellations, the ban of mass gatherings, city lockdowns, the closure of pubs and restaurants, and recommendations for self-isolation for those who think they may have contracted the virus.  

See also: Coronavirus tech conference cancellations list: Apple WWDC, Microsoft Build, E3, NAB, Gartner, Dell World and more

Verily is Google parent company Alphabet's life sciences arm. The organization has created an online questionnaire and based on the user's responses, offers a recommendation of whether or not to be tested -- and whether they qualify for a free test.   

The online screener has been generated from "guidelines from public health officials," Verily says. Questions include whether or not you are experiencing shortness of breath, fever, and other symptoms. 

"Based on the responses and testing appointment availability, you will learn whether you qualify for testing through this program at this time," the company added. 

CNET: Internet and wireless providers will waive late fees and keep Americans connected

Those who qualify for tests can book an appointment for a free test. Verily is only able to offer these services to Californian residents of the San Mateo and Santa Clara counties at present, but the organization says it is "working to rapidly expand testing in every way that we can."

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At the time of writing, going through the questionnaire shows that appointments are not available, which may indicate that the testing initiative has already proven popular. 

Those who report severe symptoms, however, are asked to seek medical attention rather than go down the test route with Verily. 

In order to be tested, users must also be over the age of 18, they must be able to speak and read English, and they must be willing to sign authorization forms which gives Verily the right to use their information in Project Baseline clinical research. 

A Google account is also required. 

"Your data collected by Verily through the testing program will never be joined with your data stored in Google products without your explicit permission," the research arm says. 

Information collected through the screening process is kept in an encrypted fashion and will not be shared with advertisers, insurance or medical providers. 

The website is a useful tool for worried citizens, but as noted by the New York Times, US President Trump previously overinflated the concept and said that Google had 1,700 engineers working on the project. In reality, the Verily arm has closer to 1,000 engineers in total. In response, the organization said on Twitter:

"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."

TechRepublic: Apple closing all retail stores outside of China due to coronavirus spread

Microsoft, too, has launched a web portal to track COVID-19. Available at bing.com/covid, the dashboard is pulling together case numbers across the world based on data sources including the WHO, CDC, and ECDC. 

At the time of writing, the platform is reporting over 170,000 registered novel coronavirus cases with countries most affected being China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea. 


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