President Biden said today that Americans would soon be able to request free COVID tests through a government-run website. He said of the 500 million at-home tests the government is buying to counteract the Omicron surge, “We’ll have websites where you can get them delivered to your home.”
However, the information on this website is sketchy. “We will have additional information as it becomes available, including what the website looks like,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said today, adding, “We will make the website public as soon as these tests become available.”
President Biden also stated that his administration is collaborating with Google to make finding COVID-19 testing venues easier for Americans. “We’ve made it easier for you to discover a free COVID testing site near you on Google,” he explained, adding that users could just type “COVID test near me” into a Google search box and “find a number of different venues nearby where you can get tested.”
In a statement to The Verge, Google spokesperson Lara Levin said the agreements outlined by the president were part of continuing work the firm has been undertaking since last year “to make testing (and then vaccine) information available in Search and Maps.”
Then went on to say that the organization continues to update when new data becomes available, and she went on to say that “We’re always working to improve the COVID information we provide on Search and Maps.” We just released an update with information on thousands more free testing sites, and we’ve been collaborating with the administration and federal agencies on this.” However, Levin did not go into depth about how Google and the Biden administration collaborated.
The multiple promises concerning websites and testing brought to mind remarks made by former President Trump in March 2020, when he said that the government was working with Google on a website to give coronavirus testing at retail pharmacies such as Walgreens.
“Google is going to construct a website — unlike previous websites — to assess if a test is necessary and to permit testing at a nearby convenient location,” Trump said during a press conference on March 13th, 2020, adding that Google has “1,700 engineers” working on the project. Google was unaware of this; immediately after Trump’s address, the company told The Verge that it was not collaborating with the government on a statewide COVID testing website. Indeed, Google never delivered such a website; instead, Trump exaggerated work done by Verily, a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent firm of Google. Verily finally created a limited-trial website in the Bay Area, which was later phased away.
For his part, Biden tried to separate the current situation from the pandemic’s disastrous early days and the Trump administration’s botched reaction.
During his statement today, Biden noted, “This is not March of 2020.” “There are 200 million people who have been vaccinated.” We’re all set. “We have further information.”