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Apple is undertaking another initiative in helping its customers deal with the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, adding the list of several other things that the company has been doing, including preventing the spread of misinformation, making large donations to relief organizations, and even producing face shields for medical staff.
Now it looks like Apple Maps will soon be able to help you find your way to the nearest COVID-19 testing center, not only allowing you to search for locations where you can get a test to determine if you have the virus, but also displaying them prominently right on the map.
It looks like the testing locations will show up as red medical icons, similar the graphic used for emergency contacts and medical info in the Health app, and will also provide additional details, including not only the contact information for the location, but also the hours of operation, type of testing location (e.g. lab, hospital, clinic, etc), and whether its a drive-through site, a mobile clinic in a place like a parking lot, or a traditional building location.
To make this happen, Apple has opened up a new portal for healthcare providers, encouraging those who offer COVID-19 testing to register their locations. Providers can do this in bulk by simply filling out a CSV template in something like Microsoft Excel, and then email that to Apple from their official business email address.
According to the template being offered to providers, Apple is also requiring that they provide a web URL specific to their COVID-19 testing services, and indicate whether the location requires an appointment or a referral from a doctor or other medical professional.
Since the applications are being submitted manually to Apple by email, they’ll need to go through some sort of human vetting procedure before appearing on Apple Maps, which should help to ensure that only recognized and valid locations appear, and that all of the information being displayed is accurate. Apple also notes that it may contact health care providers if additional details are required.
So all of this means that you likely won’t see COVID-19 testing locations popping up on Apple Maps right away, and in fact they’ll probably being to appear gradually, although we have little doubt that Apple has a dedicated team within its Maps division that will be processing these as quickly as possible.
While this is the first time that Apple has added COVID-19 specific information to Apple Maps, the company did make some important adjustments last week to help users who are dealing with the new reality of self-isolation and quarantine by prioritizing search results and suggestions to show food delivery services, pharmacies, hospitals, and other medical services, while shifting less practical categories like malls and clothing stores down to the bottom of the results. However, Apple was mostly following in the footsteps of Google Maps in this case, and hasn’t been nearly as proactive about offering details such as which businesses are still operating or highlighting those offering takeout and delivery.
Last week Apple also announced a landmark partnership with Google to develop a built-in contact tracing solution for both iPhone and Android device users that hopes to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus by letting people know when they’ve been in contact with somebody who has tested positive for COVID-19.