You've now got another potential source of information on the coronavirus pandemic, and it's right there on your iPhone. Apple has updated its Siri voice assistant to field questions about COVID-19 and help people find resources to deal with the disease.
The update started appearing on Siri sometime over the weekend, but now when you ask the voice assistant if you have coronavirus, it will respond with a series of yes/no questions about symptoms, based on information sourced to the US Public Health Service.
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Siri first asks if you're exhibiting a fever, dry cough or shortness of breath. Depending on your answer, the voice assistant might also ask if you've had any contact with anyone who's been diagnosed with coronavirus symptoms.
Answer yes to Siri's questions, and you'll be directed to seek immediate attention. If you tell Siri you're not sure about your symptoms, you'll be advised to stay vigilant for any signs of COVID-19, which can appear up to 14 days after exposure. Siri advices users who are 65 and older with serious medical conditions like diabetes or heart and lung disease to contact a medical provider.
In addition to offering a basic rundown of symptoms, Siri's coronavirus feature includes an App Store link to telehealth apps that promise to "help you connect with a health-care provider from the comfort of your home." Presumably, the included apps have been vetted by Apple's App Store staff.
Apple is just the latest tech company to step up its efforts to provide coronavirus information at a time when incomplete or misleading statements about the the pandemic are being circulated on social media. Google just launched a COVID-19 portal with a focus on education, prevention and local resources. The Google Assistant app can also direct you to coronavirus information, at least when I tried it on the iOS version on Sunday morning.
Apple's coronavirus efforts aren't stopping with Siri. The Apple TV Plus subscription service is adding a new show, Oprah Talks COVID-19, in which Oprah Winfrey promises to interview experts and others affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The first episode features an interview with actor Idris Elba and his wife, Sabrina Dhowre, who've both tested positive for the virus.
Like millions of people all over the world, I've been staying safer at home for over a week now. I know a lot of people are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, & uncertain. Bc of that, I want to offer some hope & gather thought leaders & people going through it to add some perspectiveMarch 22, 2020
Oprah Talks COVID-19 will feature weekly episodes, according to its Apple TV Plus page.
Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted that Apple will donate N95 masks to be used by health professionals battling the outbreak. Those masks have been in short supply.
Our teams at Apple have been working to help source supplies for healthcare providers fighting COVID-19. We’re donating millions of masks for health professionals in the US and Europe. To every one of the heroes on the front lines, we thank you.March 21, 2020
Cook said his company would donate "millions" of masks. Vice President Mike Pence put the figure at 2 million during a Saturday press conference.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.