Enlarge /. Dr. Deborah Birx refers to a block called "Screening Website", which shows its central importance for the coronavirus test plan. It later turned out that the website is not even ready for local testing.
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During today's press conference, at which he declared the new corona virus a national emergency, President Trump announced that Google is developing software that is central to the U.S. containment strategy. Trump and Dr. Deborah Birx, a key contributor to the government's Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said Google's web portal would be central to the process of helping US citizens take advantage of the promised expansion of the country's testing capacity.
However, two hours later, Google Communications felt compelled to make a statement saying that almost everything about it is either not entirely right or wrong. The portal is being created by another company and is not even ready for testing in the only location it is intended for: the Bay Area, California.
The role of Google in this process has been mentioned twice, first by Trump himself, who said: "Google helps develop a website. Unlike previous websites, this is done very quickly to determine whether a test is justified and not . " Facilitate testing in a nearby suitable location. "He continued that Google currently has 1,700 engineers working on the project.
But it wasn't just Trump who didn't have the facts under control. Dr. Birx was asked to explain the government's planned response and said Google would play a key role in this. "We also wanted to announce this new approach to testing," she said, "that will begin on this Google-sponsored screening website." The website is designed to ask users about risk factors and symptoms, determine whether a test is warranted, and then direct them to a nearby transit test center.
Problems start with Google not being involved. Instead, another alphabet company, Verily, is working on a portal. This makes more sense because Verily focuses on medically-oriented computing, both in terms of analyzing data for large healthcare providers and in terms of providing services and hardware to individual patients. And it has at least the same parent company as Google, which probably explains the confusion about who creates the software.
However, the Verily statement (issued by Google Communications) suggests that the plans submitted today by the administration contain a number of other issues. The complete explanation is:
We are developing a tool that can be used to test individuals for Covid 19 tests. Truly, it is at an early stage of development and plans to conduct tests in the Bay Area with the hope of expanding more widely over time. We appreciate the support of government officials and industry partners and thank the Google engineers who have volunteered to participate in this effort.
While some Google engineers may volunteer for the project, it is being developed by a company that had less than a third of the 1,700 engineers claimed by Trump two years ago. The website isn't even operational for a single region in a state, let alone ready to become a central part of the government's strategy of assigning the millions of tests that will be available in the near future.
Up until this report, the administration had not made it clear what their actual plan was. Given that the key characters in the process of drawing up this plan pretended that this portal was only operational a few hours ago, it may take some time to develop one.