When President Donald Trump finally addressed the nation’s dire shortage of testing capabilities for the coronavirus on March 13, he did what many people do when they seek answers: He turned to Google. But Trump’s announcement that the Alphabet Inc. unit would be harnessing 1,700 engineers to build a national website to screen people for symptoms, and if necessary direct them to a nearby testing site, was overly optimistic. Google is rushing to rise to the occasion.
Across Silicon Valley, tech companies big and small are stepping up to help in any way they can. Amazon.com Inc. is prioritizing shipments of medical supplies and household staples and plans to hire 100,000 workers to help speed those orders. Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube, and others have pledged to work with one another and alongside government agencies to stop the spread of misinformation about the virus.
Tech billionaires are getting involved. Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp.’s co-founder, stepped down from the company’s board to focus fully on his philanthropy and dedicate research to helping stop the virus’s spread. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. co-founder Jack Ma, working with his philanthropic organizations, has donated millions of dollars to support medical research efforts and disease prevention and has prepared 500,000 testing kits and 1 million masks for the U.S. Smaller companies such as health-care software providers Phreesia Inc. and Buoy Health Inc. are helping medical providers triage potential patients for testing and care.
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