Google announced today that it is testing adding local COVID-19 news content to a special section in its News app. The new test is in partnership with local news publishers with the goal of helping consumers understand the impact of the pandemic on their community.
The new section will highlight important updates including community reopening timelines as well as updates around business and school openings. It will also display information on the local healthcare infrastructure, public transportation, and events. Plus there are updates on how you can help families in need. Local publishers that have signed up for the pilot include The Raleigh News & Observer, NOLA.com, CBS Chicago, Oregon Live, and Gothamist. This feature is rolling out in more than 21 areas in the U.S., with plans to expand coverage across the country and Canada.
Daniel Rocha, Director of Engineering for Google News, wrote in a blog post:
"As cities and towns across the world respond with local policies and guidelines, the need for timely and authoritative local news and information is paramount. To help people navigate these complexities, we’re working across our news products to highlight the latest local guidance and surfacing more content from local news publishers so users can understand how the virus is affecting their community."
Google also says that it has recently made access to COVID-19 local news much easier through Search after announcing the change in April of this year. Coronavirus information in Search will now appear on the existing top stories carousel of articles and on a new dedicated local news carousel, which will display fresh community news. The company also expanded the new carousel featuring top tweets from locals and health authorities to more than 30 countries.
In addition, you can now ask Google Assistant to show local COVID-19 news by asking for your local station by its channel name or frequency on any Assistant-powered device. You can say, for example, “Hey Google, play news about coronavirus in Boston.” This feature is available in select markets in the U.S.