Trump: Google is building a coronavirus website to screen for COVID-19; Google: Not exactly

Verily Life Sciences, a Google subsidiary, stated that the website is a screening tool for doctors and is planned for the Bay Area only.

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday afternoon in response to the rapid spread of the coronavirus. He also said that Google was helping to build a website to help people assess their symptoms and find testing centers.

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Debbie Birx presented a flow chart that showed how the website would work. The first step is to screen for symptoms. Based on the results of those questions, a person could be directed to a drive-through testing center. Birx said that test results could be ready in 72 hours. 

There was no mention of the URL for the website or when it would be ready. Trump said that Google has 1,700 engineers working on the project. 

Google's healthcare-focused subsidiary Verily Life Sciences released a statement later on Friday about the President's comments. The company started the project as a tool for doctors to use to screen patients. The process will be tested in San Francisco. There are no plans to extend the system nationwide, according to Google. The company thanked the engineers who have volunteered for the project.

Verily runs Project Baseline, which makes it easier for people to enroll in clinical trials. This infrastructure could be used for the coronavirus screening project because it includes privacy and informed consent processes to protect consumer health information.

Providence St. Joseph Health in Seattle built a similar service using a chatbot to help people assess their symptoms and figure out what to do. The chatbot offers a series of questions about travel and symptoms.

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Lab Corp and Quest Diagnostics have tests for COVID-19, but as of Thursday, a doctor must request the test. Birx said the government response team is working to automate the testing process to make the process much faster. 

Vice president Mike Pence said later in the press conference that 15,000 and 20,000 tests per day could be performed. 

Overall, details were sparse. TechRepublic reached out to Google for more information and this story will be updated. 

This article was updated on March 14, 2020 with a response from Google.

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Dr. Debbie Birx, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator speaks at a press conference on the coronavirus, on March 13, 2020 and explains a new website that will make it easier for people to get tested. 

Image: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images