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Google coronavirus website launches a week after Trump tout

SAN FRANCISCO >> Google launched a website dedicated to information about COVID-19 a week after U.S. President Donald Trump touted the company’s help in the fight against the pandemic.

The internet giant said it worked with “relevant agencies and authorities” to roll out the site — google.com/covid19 — which went live on the web late today offering education, prevention and local resources related to the novel coronavirus.

At the top of the site, there’s an information box describing virus symptoms, treatment and prevention tips from the World Health Organization. Google also included links to state departments of health across the U.S., search trends related to COVID-19, and other resources for individuals, educators and businesses.

“Launching today in the U.S., the site will be available in more languages and countries in the coming days and we’ll update the website as more resources become available,” Google said in a statement. “Along with our other products and initiatives, we hope these resources will help people find answers to the questions they’re asking and get the help they need.”

The coronavirus has spread around the globe, infecting more than 250,000 people and killing more than 10,000. In the U.S., about a third of the population has been told to stay home, triggering a financial market crash and dire warnings of economic decline. As the distributors of most online information, Google and other internet giants have been called on to help by limiting misinformation and highlighting trustworthy sources.

On March 13, Trump said Alphabet Inc.’s Google had roughly 1,700 engineers working on a virus website. At the time, no one was sure exactly what he was talking about. Verily, a healthcare unit of Alphabet, has rolled out a triage website that offers a limited number of virus tests in Silicon Valley. But Google itself has been developing its own site, which launched this Friday.

Google hopes to include a link on its website to a questionnaire from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will ask people about any virus symptoms and direct them to testing locations and other resources.

Under a resources tab on the left of Google’s site, the company linked to many of its own services. A section for teachers on how to instruct students from home listed company offerings such as Google Classroom, Google Docs and Google Hangouts.

A Google spokesman declined to say when the company began work on the website. Google’s site also includes links to several YouTube videos, culled from channels the spokesman said the company will be curating.

Google also created bespoke search pages to show people when they look for online information about Covid-19. The company will show no ads alongside these results. There will be a carousel of virus-related Twitter posts from vetted sources, too.

The site and revamped search experience are some of the first major projects from Google’s new health division.

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