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Technology: Google Maps just got one of its most important updates ever

Everyone needs to know about this new Google Maps safety feature

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a sign on the side of a building: Google Maps © Provided by BGR Google Maps
  • Google Maps was already an indispensable mobile app that’s rolled out a bevy of updates for the coronavirus era.
  • This week, another update is coming to Google Maps for both Android and iOS users that will add a COVID-19 data layer to the app.
  • Once you have the latest version of Google Maps, you’ll be able to see detailed coronavirus case data and trends for areas you’re using the mapping app to navigate to and around.

Google Maps was already an indispensable mobile app for travelers like me, offering a rich bounty of data that helps me navigate cities and towns on my travels (back, of course, during the pre-coronavirus era, since none of us are doing much in the way of traveling these days). As a testament to how much of a Swiss Army knife the app has become over the last couple of years, though, I’ve found it to be no less useful today, as it also serves as a data repository and helpful source of information that’s especially relevant now — like restaurant hours and details, as well as the means to call directly from the app, as I’ve leaned more than ever on to-go ordering during the age of COVID-19.

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And speaking of the latter, Google Maps is also rolling out a new update along those lines this week that might be one of the app’s most important ever. In short, it’s a new COVID-19 layer within Maps, that will display crucial details about COVID-19 cases in an area so users can make better and more informed decisions as they use Google Maps to help them figure out where to go and what to do and when they get there.

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In a company blog post published on Wednesday that was penned by Google Maps product manager Sujoy Banerjee, it’s explained that once you have the updated version of the app, just tap on the “layers” icon in the top right corner of the screen. From there, click on “COVID-19 info.”

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“You’ll then see a seven-day average of new COVID cases per 100,000 people for the area of the map you’re looking at, and a label that indicates whether the cases are trending up or down,” Banerjee writes. “Color-coding also helps you easily distinguish the density of new cases in an area. Trending case data is visible at the country level for all 220 countries and territories that Google Maps supports, along with state or province, county, and city-level data where available.”

a screenshot of a cell phone: Google Maps © Provided by BGR Google Maps

According to Google, the data for this new feature within Google Maps comes from Johns Hopkins University, The New York Times, and Wikipedia. Those sources are regarded as authoritative, according to the search giant, because they get their data, in turn, from sources like public health entities including the World Health Organization, government health ministries, hospitals, and state and local health agencies. In fact, COVID-19 case information users can obtain from within Google Search already comes from those sources — it’s just being expanded to the Maps product.

This new coronavirus-themed update is in line with similar advances Google has brought to Maps recently, such as showing COVID-19 alerts in transit, as well as COVID checkpoints in driving navigation. And, as noted, this update that includes the COVID-19 layer is rolling out worldwide this week for both Android and iOS users.

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