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After Trump's claim about screening website, Google says coronavirus 'tool' still in early stages

The coronavirus 'triage' tool is still in the early stages of development and the plan is to roll it out for testing just in the Bay Area.

WASHINGTON — While declaring a national emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, President Donald Trump on Friday announced a new public-private partnership to expand coronavirus testing capabilities. 

The president said one aspect of that was a new website "facilitated" by Google that will help determine whether a person needs to be tested.

While the White House and health officials indicated the website could feature nationwide coverage in a matter of days, that doesn't appear to be the case. 

Google released a statement on its communications Twitter account more than an hour after Trump's press conference that seemed to contradict what was said in the White House Rose Garden event. 

First, it explained what's being developed is actually coming from Verily, a division of Alphabet, Google's parent company. 

The statement from Verily also clarified that it is "developing a tool to help triage individuals for Covid-19 testing" and described that in the "early stages." Additionally, they're planning to roll out testing in the Bay Area, "with the hope of expanding more broadly over time." 

"We appreciate the support of government officials and industry partners and thank the Google engineers who have volunteered to be part of this effort," the statement said.  

The communications lead for Verily, Carolyn Wang, told The Verge that originally the "triage website" they are working on was only supposed to be available to health care workers. But following Trump's announcement, anyone will be able to visit it, she told The Verge. 

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, went into a great deal of detail during Friday's White House event describing this "new approach to testing" that she said would start in the "screening website."

According to Dr. Birx, the website will feature a symptom screening tool and if its determined a person should be tested, they'll be directed to a drive-thru testing option. 

She explained that a person's test results would be available in 24 to 36 hours, which could then be found on that same website.

Wang told The Verge the triage site should be live within a few days, but it'll only be directing people to "pilot sites" in the Bay Area for now. 

It's possible there could be more information on what the website actually is later this weekend. According to Vice President Mike Pence, there will be "specific guidance by Sunday evening" on how the new website and testing will work.

Credit: AP
President Donald Trump, right, listens as Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon had joined the president at Friday's Rose Garden press conference and said his company has agreed to allow the drive-thru clinics to be set-up in some of its store parking lots. 

Target CEO Brian Cornell said the retailer is committed to keeping stores open to allow people to stock up on food and household essentials.

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