Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, speaks during the company’s 2017 Cloud Next event in San Francisco.
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Google and its parent company Alphabet are working on a website for coronavirus testing, according the internal materials viewed by CNBC and an announcement by President Donald Trump on Friday.
Trump said during a press conference announcing a state of emergency due to the coronavirus that Google has 1,700 engineers working on the effort now.
The screening website from Google will be where people can fill out a questionnaire and learn how they can get a test for the coronavirus, government officials said during the press conference. The website will have options to learn about risk factors and symptoms of coronavirus.
Pichai, in an internal memo sent Thursday that was viewed by CNBC, said employees asked about whether the company could help in COVID-19 testing efforts.
“Yesterday at TGIF, someone had a question about whether Verily could assist in the effort to test people for the COVID-19. I know we are all looking for ways to help right now, so I checked in with their team to see if they could use support from Google and our other bets for a new effort being planned,” Pichai said. “The good news is that a planning effort is underway to use the expertise in life sciences and clinical research of Verily in partnership with Google to aid in the COVID-19 testing effort in the U.S.”
Verily is Alphabet’s life sciences company.
Pichai said the company is working with governing officials to direct vulnerable patients to its Project Baseline website. It wasn’t immediately clear whether this was the same website mentioned by President Donald Trump.
“As more test kits become available, the planners are looking to develop a pathway for public health and healthcare agencies to direct people to our Baseline website, where individuals who are at higher risk can be directed to testing sites based on the latest guidance from public health authorities,” Pichai said in the memo.
Project Baseline, which says it’s “collaborating to build the next generation of healthcare tools and services” is an initiative that maps health data points used in clinical research. That research is used in collaboration with other researchers, clinicians, engineers, designers and volunteers, according to Baseline’s website.
The company-wide memo comes as Google employees — along with others in the tech industry — voice their concern about the virus and what their employer is doing to help the rapidly-spreading COVID-19 outbreak. This week, the company ordered nearly all of its global employees to work from home, including its more than 100,000 North American employees. CNBC found that a Google employee in its Bangalore, India, office tested positive for the COVID-19 Thursday and is in quarantine.
Google did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The company later said on Twitter it is developing a triage tool it will deploy near its Mountain View headquarters in California. It did not make any additional comments related to the president’s remarks.
“We are developing a tool to help triage individuals for Covid-19 testing,” Google’s communications team tweeted Friday afternoon following the president’s press conference. “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.”
“We appreciate the support of government officials and industry partners and thank the Google engineers who have volunteered to be part of this effort,” it continued.
Verily is already developing a small, body-worn temperature patch that transmits data to a phone application for early diagnosis of flu-like sicknesses, Pichai said in a blog post earlier this week.
The World Health Organization this week declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. As of Friday, the outbreak has caused more than 5,000 deaths and 135,000 confirmed cases globally, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. However, not everyone with symptoms have access to the limited testing kits.
“Verily is part of the Alphabet family and could use our help in the coming days and weeks to respond as quickly as possible to the rapidly evolving situation of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pichai said in the memo.
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