An Apple Maps update will display places to be tested for COVID-19 directly in the mapping app, with the Cupertino firm inviting test locations to register their position. While official infection figures for the coronavirus pandemic continue to rise, with more than 525,000 in the US as of Sunday, April 12, a shortage of testing has left experts and healthcare policy-makers struggling to gage the effectiveness of the response to COVID-19.
Patchy delivery on government promises for widespread test locations hasn’t helped, and nor did delays with the official CDC testing kit. A month ago, President Trump promised that drive-thru coronavirus test locations would be launching in parking lots of big-name stores like Walmart and Target. However that’s generally failed to transpire.
With uncertainty about test locations continuing, tech firms are wading in to try to lift some of the confusion. The coronavirus website that Trump said Google was building – which, the President suggested, would act as a triage and guidance tool, directing people to their nearest test site should their conditions warrant a diagnostic – turned out to be intended only for a tiny fraction of the country. However it looks like Apple Maps is stepping in to fill the gap.
The company is inviting healthcare providers, labs, or other businesses that are offering COVID-19 tests to register their location and other details, 9to5Mac spotted. That will be eventually added to Apple Maps. Apple says it’s “working to verify and add as many testing locations as we can, as quickly as possible” though warns that it can’t give an estimate on how long submissions will take to actually appear.
It’s not just a list of geographic locations, either. Apple is also gathering data on the nature of the testing being carried out, and what protocols might be in place for deciding whether people are eligible for a test.
For example, there’s the option to flag virological tests, laboratory testing, hospital, or diagnostic services, and whether that testing requires a referral or an appointment. Apple is also collecting information on the type of location, whether that be a drive-thru or parking lot site, inside of a building, an existing lab facility, or a converted lab facility.
The update to Apple Maps comes after Google and Apple announced they would be collaborating on a contact-trace system that would operate across iOS and Android devices. Relying on Bluetooth, it would allow a private log of potential contacts to be stored for the past fourteen days. Should a person later discover they have been infected by coronavirus, that contact data could be shared and those potentially infected in turn notified that they may want to seek medical advice.