With the spread of COVID-19 all over the globe, it is necessary to curtail the disease as soon as possible. Since many patients are carriers of COVID-19 without displaying symptoms, testing is of the utmost importance in the US. There are several websites to help people pinpoint their symptoms and direct them accordingly.
However, misunderstandings about a nationwide website for testing have risen due to confusing information. Here is what we know now.
Clearing up confusions
You might have heard President Donald Trump stating on March 13 that Google was building a website to help US citizens test for COVID-19. However, reports came forth that this is not the case and Google was not aware of the announcements.
Still confused about what is happening? The idea of such a website was overstated and misleading. Andy Conrad, chief executive of Verily (a life sciences research company) spoke of a similar project with Jared Kushner, White House senior adviser. President Trump made this idea public with Google’s name on it. While Verily was a former subsidiary of Google, both companies are now under the management of Alphabet.
After this announcement, Verily explained that it was in the early development phases of a tool. This tool would help to manage possible coronavirus patients in the Bay Area, expanding to others in time. A statement by Verily mentions that originally the site was going to be a triage site for healthcare providers only. “Project Baseline” is the current Verily screening site, now functioning in California at Santa Clara, San Mateo, Sacramento, and Riverside counties.
On a different note, Oscar, a health insurance company co-created by Joshua Kushner also founded a separate online portal on March 13. Oscar Health assists people in locating screening centers for COVID-19 and evaluates their possibility of contracting the virus.
Project Baseline by Verily
Despite all the mix-ups, Verily developed a screener and got it running by March 16 hosted on Project Baseline. Built three years ago for health studies, Project Baseline is currently only available in California but hopes to expand further to disease hotspots.
You need to meet the following requirements to be eligible:
- Be at least 18 years of age or older.
- Should be fluent in English.
- Be a resident of one of the selected areas
- Sign a form for COVID-19 Public Health authorization.
Using the website
If you are eligible, navigate to Project Baseline’s website on either your computer, iPhone or Android browser by following this link: projectbaseline.com/study/covid-19/match. The link takes you to an initial survey where you answer questions with yes/no answers. The first page asks about your symptoms (shortness of breath, cough, fever, or others) and their severity.
You can select “No” if you experience minor symptoms. Next question asks if you are over 18, and then whether you are near the selected counties:
- San Jose (Santa Clara county)
- San Mateo (San Mateo county)
- Sacramento (Sacramento county)
- Lake Elsinore (Riverside County)
Selecting “No” ends the questionnaire with the message stating your ineligibility, and asks you to check back later. If you select “Yes”, then you are directed to a Google-hosted page to create an account (Google/Non-Google emails accepted) to sign in, followed by the signing of an authorization form and lastly, completion of screening.
If you select “Yes” to the first question about having severe symptoms, the screener will end. A message stating your unsuitability for the program appears and directs you to the CDC website.
Google’s Coronavirus campaign
Google has also been playing its part in fighting misinformation. On March 21, Google launched a portal with relevant coronavirus information. The educational website covers care and precautionary instructions about COVID-19.
It also includes recent developments and information according to state and refers to additional resources for people. However, it does not mention features announced by Trump i.e. testing site locations.
Other than this portal, Google is also promoting its “Do the Five” campaign, which encourages people to follow five basic rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Google Assistant now has a feed to keep users aware of the latest headlines, and searching for “coronavirus tips” pulls up verified information.
So what is the truth?
In conclusion, there was no specific government website for linking potential patients to testing centers. Similarly, at the time of President Trump’s announcement, no Google website was in works either. However, now US residents have the option of Verily’s Project Baseline and Oscar Health.