Coronavirus update: Walmart, CVS, Target Pledge To Set Up Testing Sites; Google Works On Site To Find Virus Tests; Mobile, Internet Carriers Pledge To Expand Service, Waive Late Fees

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Google and its sister company Verily are launching a pilot COVID-19 testing website on Monday (March 16) that initially be limited to the San Francisco Bay area, according to published reports. 

The website will direct people exposed to the virus to testing sites where they can be tested and get results within three days. As more test kits become available, the website will be rolled out to more locations.

“The tool will triage people who are concerned about their COVID-19 risk into testing sites based on guidance from public health officials and test availability,” Verily said in a blog post on Sunday (March 15).

“We are in the early stages of development, and planning to roll testing out in the (San Francisco) Bay Area, with the hope of expanding more broadly over time,” Verily spokeswoman Kathleen Parkes told Reuters.

About 1,700 Google employees are giving up their own time to help with coronavirus-related initiatives, a source told the news outlet. It wasn’t known what percentage of the Google volunteers were working on the new website.

Carolyn Wang, another Verily spokeswoman, said Verily was “collaborating closely with organizations like Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp who are also working on additional approaches to making testing more accessible and expedient in other areas.”

The Retail Industry Leaders Association said Walmart, Target, Walgreens and CVS were among merchants willing to collaborate with the government to rollout drive-through coronavirus testing.

In another pledge of corporate assistance to fight Covid-19, Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma said 2 million masks would be provided throughout Europe. 

About 500,000 masks, test kits and other medical supplies landed in Belgium on Friday (March 13) and are being sent to Italy. 

Ma said he was also planning to donate 500,000 coronavirus testing kits to the U.S. along with one million masks. He said international cooperation was important to fight the virus that has killed over 6,000 people worldwide. There are at least 3,400 in the U.S. and 65 deaths.

Mobile phone carriers are also doing their part to help make life easier during the coronavirus pandemic and have signed on to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Keep Americans Connected Pledge. Sprint, T-Mobile, Comcast, and Verizon are joining AT&T in waiving overages and data caps for customers.  

The pledge also says that no individual or small business will lose cell phone service due to nonpayment. Late fees would also be waived if incurred due to financial reasons related to the virus. All Wi-Fi hotspots would also be opened up to anyone who needs one.