Vice President Mike Pence ensured “specific” clear information recently after Google completely contradicted President Trump’s earlier statement that they would have a new national website up and running “quickly” that would assist the public with coronavirus screening.
At a White House news conference, Pence said to reporters, “We’re working 24/7 on this…We’re going to have very specific details on the rollout of this new public-private partnership and testing at 5 o’clock tomorrow.” He said that the “objective here is to have a website up very quickly.”
Pence said that Google planned to launch a “pilot project” website this week that could be used for “risk assessment.”
Google, however, wasn’t in on that announcement and was, in fact, surprised to hear it. Shortly thereafter, the company issued a statement from Verily, which is a subsidiary of Google’s parent Alphabet, saying that they DO have a site in the “early development” phase that would be tested in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Google said the release comes with the “hope of expanding more broadly 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
Trump even thanked Google for developing a website that would aid in determining “whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location.”
He said, it is “going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past,” which was intended as a dig at the websites problems during the government’s health insurance exchange under the Obama administration.
Trump didn’t stop there. He included specifics, like saying that Google had “1,700 engineers” working on the site, and that they were already making “tremendous progress.”
White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx held up a piece of cardboard designed to look like the website page which showed where “consumers” could click on a tab that said “no coronavirus symptoms,” which would tell them they don’t need to be tested.
Verily representative Carolyn Wang gave a description of the website to The Verge and called it a “triage website” meant for health professionals and not the public at large.
The site was also first meant to be an aid to show WHERE users could find test locations. Verily said it will take people to “pilot sites” for testing in the Bay Area but that they do hope to expand “over time.”
How about Trump’s quote of 1,700 engineers working on it? Nope.
A Verily employee told The Daily Beast: “There’s absolutely not 1,700 engineers at Verily. I’m not even sure there are 1,700 people at Verily.”
Trump’s announcement also concerned people about patient privacy and about the use of their personal information.
It sounds like @Google just figured out how to get the personal health data of every single American— Kyle Plotkin (@kjplotkin) March 13, 2020