Apple helps screen for Coronavirus (COVID-19) with iPhone app and website

Are you sick of hearing about the Coronavirus (COVID-19)? Yeah, me too. Fatigue is definitely setting in. Quite frankly, I'd be happy to no longer cover anything related to it on BetaNews. And yet, we must, as it is important that we are all educated on the subject. Many people are getting sick, and even worse, some are actually dying.

Unfortunately, here in the USA, testing for the disease has been woefully deficient. We are behind many other countries, such a China and South Korea, in this regard. Many people don't know how to get tested, where to get tested, or even if they should get tested. Making matters worse, you could be infected yet asymptomatic and contagious. Today, Apple announces it is trying to help regarding this, as the company launches a special app and website for COVID-19 screening. Even the much-maligned Siri voice assistant is getting in on the action. And yes, it is all based on official CDC guidance.


"The COVID-19 app and website allow users to answer a series of questions around risk factors, recent exposure and symptoms for themselves or a loved one. In turn, they will receive CDC recommendations on next steps, including guidance on social distancing and self-isolating, how to closely monitor symptoms, whether or not a test is recommended at this time, and when to contact a medical provider. This new screening tool is designed to be a resource for individuals and does not replace instructions from healthcare providers or guidance from state and local health authorities," says Apple.

The iPhone-maker also says, "Along with the new COVID-19 app and website, customers across the US may also ask Siri, 'How do I know if I have coronavirus?' to access guidance and resources from the CDC and a curated collection of telehealth apps available on the App Store. This week, travelers landing at select international airports throughout the US started receiving notifications on their iPhone to remind them of current CDC guidance to stay home and monitor their health."

Whether or not Apple's offerings have any true value remain to be seen. Look, the fact that people can be asymptomatic and spreading it means that we should be testing everyone; asking a person a series of questions is kind of irrelevant. Hell, it can be argued that telling people they don't need a test based on those questions is downright irresponsible. But OK, at the very least, I suppose this new app and website can help to quell some anxiety while also educating people about the virus. Ultimately, you should contact a doctor for medical advice.

What's slightly worrying is Apple tracking iPhone users to detect when they arrive at international airports. This apparently applies whether or not you install the new app, and there seems to be no way to opt out. I mean, I totally understand why Apple is doing it, and the CDC-based notifications are likely to be helpful for travelers, but people tend to let their privacy guard down when they are scared. If there wasn't a pandemic going on, I am sure people would be up in arms about being tracked -- especially by a major technology company in partnership with the government. It's a slippery slope...

If you want to give the website a try, you can simply click here. The iPhone app can be had here. Just keep in mind, regardless of how you answer the questions, and no matter what Apple suggests, it is entirely possible that you are or aren't infected. Always seek medical advice from a doctor -- don't just rely on an app.

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