Google Maps will soon include information on COVID-19 spread in states, counties, and some cities. Toggling on the “COVID” layer in the app will show the seven-day average number of confirmed cases in each area per 100,000 people. Areas of the map will be color-coded based on case rate, and a label shows if cases are going up or down. The feature will roll out on Android and iOS this week.
The layer is designed to help people “make more informed decisions about where to go and what to do,” wrote Sujoy Banerjee, a Google Maps project manager, in a blog post. Public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people keep track of the amount of COVID-19 spread in their area to figure out the risk of certain activities. Transmission rates in local communities is important for parents to consider when deciding if they should send their kids to school and for families to monitor in advance of any holiday plans.
The COVID overlay pulls its data from Johns Hopkins’ COVID-19 dashboard, The New York Times, and Wikipedia.
This is one of many pandemic-related features introduced in Google Maps over the past few months — the app also includes alerts about face-covering mandates on public transportation, information about takeout options at restaurants, and warnings to call ahead to a doctor’s office if you think you have COVID-19.
The rollout of the new feature comes as rates of COVID-19 in the United States are starting to climb again, driven in part by growing outbreaks in the Midwest. Experts are worried that a fall spike is on its way.