Contrary to Trump’s Claim, Google Is Not Building a Nationwide Coronavirus Screening Website

Dieter Bohn, reporting for The Verge:

More than an hour after Trump’s press conference, a Google communications Twitter account passed along the following statement from Verily, which is a different company inside the Alphabet corporate umbrella:

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

Carolyn Wang, communications lead for Verily, told The Verge that the “triage website” was initially only going to be made available to health care workers instead of the general public. Now that it has been announced the way it was, however, anybody will be able to visit it, she said. But the tool will only be able to direct people to “pilot sites” for testing in the Bay Area, though Wang says Verily hopes to expand it beyond California “over time.”

Compare that to what Trump claimed:

“I want to thank Google. Google is helping to develop a website. It’s going to be very quickly done — unlike websites of the past — to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location. We have many, many locations behind us, by the way. We cover this country and large parts of the world, by the way. We’re not going to be talking about the world right now, but we cover very, very strongly our country. Stores in virtually every location. Google has 1,700 engineers working on this right now. They have made tremendous progress.”

Trump’s entire response to the pandemic has been bullshit — and I use that word very carefully, in the sense of Harry G. Frankfurt’s masterful treatise on the subject — but the idea of 1,700 engineers working on a website being a good thing is up there at the top of the list. The entire premise of Fred Brooks’s The Mythical Man-Month (speaking of masterful treatises) is that “adding manpower to a late software project makes it later”.

Friday, 13 March 2020