Apple has updated Siri so that she can perform a quick- and dirty screening to see if you need to contact your doctor in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The update seems to have been disseminated today as iPhone users started to notice this new feature on Saturday. To get started, all you have to do is say, "Hey Siri, do I have coronavirus?" While it is not a pleasant question to ask, it does tell Siri that you want her to screen you.
U.S. iOS users can be "screened" for coronavirus by virtual assistant Siri
If you tell Siri that you want to be screened by her, she will then ask whether you have a dry cough, a fever or shortness of breath. You can answer "Yes," "No," or "Not Sure." If you answer "No," you will be then asked whether you have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for the disease. Once again, the three options are "Yes," "No," or "Not Sure." Depending on your response, you might be told that you're at lower risk to be infected but need to remain vigilant for symptoms such as a fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath.
Siri will also remind you to wash your hands for 20 seconds (sing the Happy Birthday song to yourself two times), and avoid close contact with people outside your household. Siri also wants you to know that you might not feel sick but you could still be carrying COVID-19 and spreading it to others. If your answers give Siri a reason to feel alarmed, she will ask whether your symptoms are extreme or life-threatening. If you answer in the positive, Siri will be ready to call emergency services (911) for you. If you answer with a negative response, Siri will tell you to stay home, avoid contact with others, and contact a doctor if the symptoms get more severe. At the end of the screening, Siri offers a link to the website for the Center for Disease Control (CDC.gov).
Earlier today, we told you about the new Google Maps feature that shows a reminder every time you search for a doctor or hospital using the app. A box appears near the bottom of the screen that reminds you to call your doctor before driving to the hospital if you think you have COVID-19. And if you go to Google Search and tap in coronavirus, special tabs appear that will keep you up to date on the latest news, information, and more from reputable organizations. All major social media companies are trying to prevent fake news from being spread all over their platforms. Phony cures can do plenty of damage, and misinformation can lead to fear and panic. And the last thing we need to do right now is panic.
The Siri screening is available only in the U.S. and it isn't known whether Apple has plans to expand it overseas. According to Apple, the answers that Siri gives out for the screening come from the U.S. Public Health Service (a division of the Department of Health and Human Services), as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Ironically, the same government that has been investigating Big Tech for possible antitrust violations and for growing too big and unwieldy, is now relying on the same companies to help get the country through this crisis. It seems that while conditions in China are slowly improving, the rest of the world has yet to see a peak in the number of cases. This can be seen easily through Apple's decision to reopen all 42 Apple Stores in China while closing its brick and mortar stores everywhere else.