Google’s coronavirus info site is live (but not as Trump described it)

Georgina Torbet

Google finally launched a website to help streamline testing for coronavirus (officially called COVID-19) on Friday, March 20, following a bizarre introduction a week earlier in which President Donald Trump announced that Google was building the site — and Google itself said it wasn’t.

There are, in fact, two coronavirus-related websites that were recently launched by Google’s parent company, Verily. First, there is Project Baseline, a screening site only for the state of California. Launched last week, it shows people how and where Californians in two highly affected counties can get screened for the disease and gives information on who is eligible for screening.

The second new site is called COVID-19 Information & Resources and is intended for the general global public. After all the fuss about the launch of the site, it’s a simple, albeit useful, informational site, with explanations of what the disease is, what its symptoms are, and how it can be treated. There are also prevention tips, informational and entertainment videos, advice resources, and a link to a map showing confirmed coronavirus cases by country.

As important as getting this information to people is, it’s worth noting that the site does not offer the features that Trump claimed it would. Trump said the site would “determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location.” In fact, the site says nothing about deciding whether a case should be tested.

A screenshot of Google’s new coronavirus information site.

Google also provided information related to searches for coronavirus performed using its search tools. “Right now, the disease is the largest topic people are looking for globally, surpassing even some of the most common and consistent queries we see in Search,” wrote Emily Moxley, Google’s product management director for search, in a blog post.

The company said it will provide more authoritative information in search results when people search for coronavirus-related queries. “In addition to links to helpful resources from national and local health authorities, people will also find a carousel of Twitter accounts from local civic organizations and health authorities to help connect them with the latest local guidance as it’s shared,” the blog post reads. “We’ve also introduced a feature to surface some of the most common questions about the pandemic, with relevant snippets sourced from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”