Google, Walmart join U.S. effort to speed up coronavirus testing

Corporate America joined the fight against the spread of coronavirus on Friday, as President Donald Trump and executives announced that Google would offer a website to help people determine whether they needed tests and retailers would set up drive-through testing in parking lots.

Shares of Google parent Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), Walmart Inc (WMT.N), Target Corp (TGT.N) and drugstore owner CVS Health Corp (CVS.N) all closed up more than 9%, in line with the broad stock market, though Alphabet dropped 2% after hours.

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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 and infected more than 1,660 people in the country.

“I want to thank Google. Google is helping to develop a website, it’s gonna 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,” Trump said.

“Google has 1,700 engineers working on this right now, made tremendous progress.”

An administration presentation showed a potential user would be asked several questions on the website and then given a recommendation as to whether they should get a coronavirus test.

Those requiring a test would be referred to a store that can provide assistance, potentially including a drive-through test, according to the administration’s presentation. Results would be available online in 24 to 36 hours.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said the website’s launch date would be known by Sunday night.

About 1,700 Google workers have volunteered to help with coronavirus-related efforts, according to a person familiar with the matter, but it is unclear whether all of them are involved with developing the new website.

Leading U.S. retailers will work with the government to assist with drive-through coronavirus testing, the Retail Industry Leaders Association said. Senior leaders of Walmart, Target, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O) and CVS stood with Trump at the announcement.

The tests will be conducted in retail store parking lots and sent to labs to complete testing in partnership with local health departments and diagnostic labs. The testing sites will not be run by the companies.

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