March 15, 2020 / 1:37 AM / 16 days ago

Google says it is developing a nationwide coronavirus website

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Google is seen in Davos, Switzerland Januar 20, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) said on Saturday that it was working with the U.S. government to develop a nationwide website that would help Americans with questions about coronavirus symptoms, risk factors and testing.

“We are fully aligned and continue to work with the U.S. government to contain the spread of COVID-19, inform citizens, and protect the health of our communities,” Google said in a statement on Twitter.

President Donald Trump had thanked Google on Friday for developing a website that he said would help people determine whether they needed a coronavirus test, saying that 1,700 engineers were working on it.

That prompted the search and advertising giant to respond that, in fact, a life sciences division, Verily, was in the early stages of developing a tool to help triage Americans who may need testing for the coronavirus and that it would be tested in the Bay Area and expanded over time.

Alphabet’s shares closed up more than 9% after the Friday announcement by the president.

Pressure has been rising on U.S. officials to increase and improve testing for the fast-spreading virus, which has reached almost every U.S. state, closed schools and forced the cancellation of thousands of sporting events, conferences and concerts amid efforts to stop its spread by keeping Americans out of big crowds.

Like Google, Verily is a subsidiary of Alphabet, which is based in Mountain View, California.

The cooperation with the Trump administration comes as Alphabet faces antitrust investigations by federal and state agencies over its search and digital advertising businesses, among others.

Additionally, Trump has accused Google of skewing its search results to portray him negatively. The company has also attracted the administration’s ire for not renewing a contract to provide its artificial intelligence technologies for a military drone program.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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