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Apple Step In To Help With Coronavirus

On Friday Apple released a COVID-19 website and app with a screening tool and other information about the coronavirus outbreak. Apple said the app and site are meant to "make it easy for people across the country to get trusted information and guidance at a time when the US is feeling the heavy burden of COVID-19." 

They were developed in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House coronavirus task force and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

The COVID-19 app and website include a screening tool that asks users to answer a series of questions around risk factors, recent exposure and symptoms. Based on their responses, they'll 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." 

Apple said the screening tool doesn't replace instructions from doctors and health care providers or guidance from state and local health authorities. 

"To help you stay informed, understand symptoms and take proper steps to protect your health, Apple has created a COVID-19 website and a US app in partnership with the CDC," said Apple CEO Tim Cook in a tweet Friday. "As always, the data is yours and your privacy is protected. Stay safe and healthy."

COVID-19, the disease caused by a newly identified coronavirus, has rapidly spread across the globe. The World Health Organization on March 11 declared the outbreak a pandemic, saying it expected to see the number of cases and deaths continue climbing. The U.S. now has more reported coronavirus cases than any other country in the world, with more than 92,000 people infected with the virus as of Friday. 

In addition to the screening tool, Apple said the app and website will offer answers to frequently asked questions about the coronavirus as well as up-to-date information from the CDC, including best practices for washing hands and how to monitor symptoms. 

"The White House commends companies like Apple Inc. for answering President Trump's call for a public-private alliance against this invisible enemy," said a senior White House official in a statement Friday. The CDC plans to encourage other companies to build additional COVID-19 tools by open sourcing its underlaying recommendations and algorithms, the official said.

Earlier this week, Apple updated its digital assistant Siri to help guide those worried about coronavirus symptoms. Summoned by asking Siri "do I have coronavirus," the assistant will respond with the survey that uses yes and no answers to try to guide people on potential next steps. 

The CDC also has a coronavirus self-checker chat bot on its website that can assess people's symptoms and risk factors, and help them make decisions about seeking medical care. That tool was developed using Microsoft's Healthcare Bot service. 


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