There are good surprises and there are bad surprises. It seems Google just received the latter, courtesy of the president.
During a Friday press conference, Trump announced that the search giant was working on a site that would help you find a location where you can get tested for COVID-19, after first establishing whether you had the symptoms.
But Google was not planning on saying anything about the site, said Wired‘s sources at the company. What Trump said wasn’t even accurate: the site wasn’t intended for the general public. And the administration compounded the confusion Sunday by telling us to wait for a Sunday announcement.
Trump took to the podium Friday to thank Google for helping to create the testing locator site. There was even a flow chart printed on a large poster board. Then Verily, the life and sciences division of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), released a statement via Twitter clarifying what was really going on.
The site was actually in the early stages of development, the company said. When it is ready, it’s going to first be rolled out for testing in the Bay Area before potentially expanding over time.
Statement from Verily: “We are 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.
— Google Communications (@Google_Comms) March 13, 2020
According to The Verge, the site was also meant specifically for health care workers. It was only after Trump announced it to the country, that Verily decided it would let anyone have access to it.
A Verily spokesperson clarified that the site was “planning to focus on highest risk populations, which includes healthcare workers—but this was not solely intended for them.”
The confusion didn’t end there.
During an impromptu briefing at the White House on Saturday, vice president Mike Pence claimed that Google is planning to launch the site on March 16—this date supposedly confirmed in a statement given to him by Google as of this morning. Wait until 5pm Sunday, Pence said, but didn’t specify which 5pm. (Google HQ is on Pacific Time, three hours behind Washington, D.C.)
When questioned by reporters on whether the site will be available nationwide, Pence also said the site is scheduled to be tested in the Bay Area with plans on expanding to other locations. But for more details, we’ll have to wait until 5 p.m. on Sunday. In some time zone or other.
We’ve reached out to Google for comment on the website, and will update this story if we receive a response.
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