Safely navigating the world in 2020 is more than yielding to pedestrians, not running on train platforms, and wearing a helmet on every bike ride. It’s moving through the world in a way that minimizes the risk of contracting COVID-19 and/or spreading it to others, a tall order for any traveler.
The people behind Google Maps know this, which is why they’re adding a brand-new COVID-19 layer to their app, which they claim is used by a billion people. It overlays a color corresponding to a seven-day average of COVID cases per 100,000 people in the area displayed along with a label that indicates which direction cases are trending.
Data is and available for all 220 countries and territories supported by Google Maps and in smaller jurisdictions — provinces, states, counties, and cities — where made available by public health agencies and hospitals.
This new layer joins other Google Maps features that are already helping people get through the pandemic. The app shows when businesses are usually busy, helping people avoid the kinds of crowded spaces where transmission is more likely. There’s similar information for public transit.
And speaking of public transit, Google Maps integrated alerts from local transit agencies into directions that depend on their services, letting customers know about schedule changes and mask mandates that might affect their trip. Similarly, looking up a hospital or testing center comes with a reminder to verify your eligibility for testing and a link to the particular rules of the location in question.
Features that make this kind of information more convenient for people to access are important tools in the effort to combat COVID-19. Here’s hoping that they become obsolete in the near future.
The COVID-19 information layer rolls out to the Google Maps app on iOS and Android this week.