I was really hoping Google’s newest integration for Google Maps would allow you to see COVID-19 cases popping up and spreading out on a giant map in the style of Plague, Inc. Alas, it’s not meant to be — but you can at least now see COVID-19 trends directly on Google Maps.
(And, no, this should not be used to help you plan getaways to areas with fewer cases, because you should be staying home and keeping safe like every other smart American.)
To get started, make sure your Google Maps app is updated on your Android or iOS/iPadOS device. Fire up the app, tap on the layers icon in the upper-right corner of your screen (which looks like squares stacked on top of each other), and pick “COVID-19 Info” in the screen that appears:
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to find this information on the browser-based version of Google Maps (for those who prefer to give themselves anxiety at home instead of on-the-go). But you still have plenty of other options to track COVID-19 cases in your area, including the Johns Hopkins University tracker/maps, Reddit’s “covidmapping” mashup, the 1Point3Acres case maps, as well as the (delightfully named) “Infection2020” maps, to name a few.
When Google’s implementation goes live for everyone — it is still rolling out as of this writing — you’ll be able to see seven-day averages for COVID-19 cases for “all 220 countries and territories that Google Maps supports, along with state or province, county, and city-level data where available,” Google writes. COVID trends will be easy to spot and colour-coded, useful if you just need a quick visual reminder that your home turf is getting better (or worse).
While a little more information never hurt anybody, I wouldn’t count on this new feature moving the needle for those who refuse to wear masks. You could superimpose a big fat “you’re dumb” on top of their house in Google Maps and they’d just give it a friendly wave while heading off on a mini-holiday with their friends.
Stay safe; stay vigilant. Tell stupid people how their poor decisions are needlessly endangering all of our lives. And please, please do not use Google’s data to plan a quick trip to a “safer” location. You’re better than that.