The COVID-19 situation has produced so much information, misinformation, fake news, and confusion that people are naturally at a loss for what to do. The biggest question on people’s minds may be whether they are infected or not. In normal circumstances, seeing a professional is the advised course of action but health workers are already spread thin trying to care for confirmed cases. To help take a load off their shoulders, some, like Google sister company Verily, have created tools to help triage cases and Apple’s Siri is one of the latest to be added in that arsenal.
Not every cold, cough, or difficulty in breathing immediately means a COVID-19 case. Conversely, some cases are even asymptomatic or don’t show up immediately. These varying conditions give rise to doubt and fear that has people scrambling for any answer, even if inaccurate. If you have an Apple device, you can simply ask Siri to help you calm down a bit.
Asking Siri whether you have COVID-19 or think you have it will trigger a series of questions that branch into more questions depending on what you answer. These include symptoms you might be experiencing and their severity as well as recent travel history, especially in places with confirmed coronavirus cases.
Apple didn’t simply pull these questions out of thin air, of course. Users can have some confidence (depending on their beliefs) that these are the very same questions that the CDC is telling people in the US to ask themselves. These are the same set of questions that other sites also use. Consequently, the availability of this feature and the recommendations that Siri makes are particular to the US only.
Unless the answer results in a recommendation to see a doctor at once, Siri will direct users to the CDC’s web page or Apple’s own App Store where the company offers tips and reminders on what to do and what not to do during these times. The App Store also has a few apps related to COVID-19 but Apple has, for better or worse, been reported to exercise very strict scrutiny over which apps get in, barring even apps from popular developers.