The country’s tech giants have joined with the White House in a task force to fight the new coronavirus, as Silicon Valley escalates its efforts to tackle the fast-moving pandemic, according to people familiar with the group.

The companies, including Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit, Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc., on Sunday conducted a nearly hourlong meeting with White House officials, including Michael Kratsios, chief technology officer of the U.S., one of these people said. Forty-five people joined.

Among the topics: how citizens could be diagnosed without visiting a doctor, and how the companies could work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its top priorities, according to an agenda.

The Technology and Research Task Force is part of a broad push by technology companies large and small across Silicon Valley to figure out ways to solve the myriad problems related to the rapidly spreading virus. Tech companies are racing to figure out everything from how fast the virus is spreading to predicting how many hospital beds will be available at any given time.

The task force started about two weeks ago, but its efforts have taken on heightened urgency in recent days, including after a meeting some tech executives had with White House officials on Wednesday, these people say. “It’s gotten bad enough," said one of the people involved in the effort. The task force is separate from the group of executives that spoke last week with White House officials.

Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, who in the past has had a contentious relationship with President Trump, is among the top tech executives who is in contact with the White House, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Numerous other efforts are under way across Silicon Valley.

Outside of the task force efforts, Ron Conway, one of the most well-known angel investors in Silicon Valley, has been pitching tech executives, other investors and legislators to raise money for research and community efforts, particularly those by the University of California, San Francisco. UCSF is running a Covid-19 Response Fund, raising money to expand diagnostic and testing capacity, as well as ensuring necessary housing for patients.

“I’m proud to contribute to this critical effort along with other tech leaders that will one day save millions of lives here in the United States and around the world," Mr. Conway wrote in one email pitch. He said he has so far raised about $5 million “across all efforts" after starting about two weeks ago.

Sam Altman, who headed up Silicon Valley’s famed Y-Combinator startup accelerator, posted on Twitter and his blog Sunday saying he wants to fund more startups helping to fight the virus because “it’s basically the one thing I know how to do that can help."

Mr. Altman posted a spreadsheet where others could write in their ideas of startups to fund and quickly had more than three dozen companies listed.

“Silicon Valley has wanted the government to take this seriously for awhile," says Mr. Altman. “I still think an aggressive containment strategy would be great. But given that that didn’t happen fast enough we need to think about Plan B."

One of the companies Mr. Altman invested in this week is Cambridge, Mass.,-based Helix Nanotechnologies Inc. For the past two years it has been working on a new cancer vaccine, but on Tuesday the team huddled via videoconference and decided to use the technology they are developing to fight the coronavirus.

Vaccines take a while to develop and they hope they can create one that will fight different mutations of coronavirus that could emerge next year. To help spin up the new effort, Mr. Altman and other previous backers of the company are putting in more money, said Hannu Rajaniemi, Helix’s co-founder and CEO.

“We are thinking about the bigger picture here," says Mr. Rajaniemi. “What about seasonal Covid-19 that comes back every year that may be far more lethal. We need long term protection from it."

Part of the tech industry’s efforts stem from a frustration by some executives about the slowness of the U.S. government to react, or the vexation at how seemingly haphazard some actions to combat the virus have played out across the country, some of these people said.

Navigating the complexities of big tech companies can also be a challenge. The task-force effort was sparked in part by Josh Mendelsohn, a managing partner at Hangar Ventures, a New York-based venture-capital firm. Mr. Mendelsohn had earlier worked at Google, managing its disaster-response team.

The industry’s response also follows a press conference on Friday, in which Mr. Trump appeared to exaggerate an initiative from Google to build a website that would expand testing for the virus. He said the search giant had 1,700 engineers working on the project and that they had made “tremendous progress."

The president’s remarks led to widespread confusion inside Google, employees said, where engineers made mocking posts to internal message boards about the project and Mr. Trump’s promises for it.

In reality, the Alphabet unit Verily is in the early stages of a pilot project in conjunction with California authorities to help establish testing sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and build an online tool to increase risk screening and testing for people at high risk, according to a blog post Sunday from Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.

The company didn’t respond to a request for comment on the internal reaction to Mr. Trump’s announcement.

—Dana Mattioli contributed to this article.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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