How Google Maps COVID Updates Help Us All

Navigating the new normal

Key Takeaways

  • Google Maps soon will release a coronavirus vaccine feature to show details about vaccine locations near you. 
  • Since the pandemic, Google has released 200 coronavirus-related updates. 
  • Experts say the app is doing a great job at keeping people informed in uncertain times.
Close up of two people using a maps app on a smartphone in the car.
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Google Maps plans to release a feature in the coming weeks showing vaccination sites, adding to the many COVID-19 updates the app has made during the pandemic in an effort to help users. 

Since March 2020, Google has released 200 features that center on providing users with critical COVID-19 updates. From showing where to get tested, to allowing businesses to update their hours and opening status, to even encouraging users to wear masks, Google Maps is doing a great job at navigating individual users and businesses through the pandemic, according to experts.

"The frequent updates from Google are part of their relentless focus to deliver the best user experience possible," wrote Nick Valle of search engine optimization agency Restoration Rocket, in an email to Lifewire.

"By keeping users both safe and informed, Google builds trust with their users, who are more frequently going to Google to find answers, rather than businesses themselves."

Vaccine Near Me

The latest Google Maps coronavirus update will show users where they can get vaccinated near their location. When users type "vaccine near me" within Google Maps, the results will appear in designated information panels. They will include details about whether an appointment is required, if the vaccine is only available to certain groups, and if the location is drive-through accessible. 

The coronavirus vaccine updates only will be available in Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas for now, but Google says more states will join that list as the national vaccine roll-out ramps up. 

"Searches for 'vaccines near me' have increased 5x since the beginning of the year and we want to make sure we’re providing locally relevant answers,” wrote Google CEO Sundar Pichai in a blog announcing the update.

"We’re working with partners like VaccineFinder.org, an initiative of Boston Children's Hospital, and other authoritative sources, such as government agencies and retail pharmacies, to gather vaccination location information and make it available." 

A closeup of a shot going into someone's arm.
Kmatta / Getty Images

Other ways Google has helped promote coronavirus information is by including a coronavirus warning when searching for doctors or medical facilities, as well as a notification that reminds you to wear a face mask before leaving your house, when searching for your destination.

Stewart Dunlop, founder of AirSoftPal, said that Maps also provides detailed information about the all-time identified cases in a particular region, the average trend seen in the last seven days, and the number of deaths there. 

"Google started the roll-out of live crowdedness information, so everyone can see how crowded their bus, train, or subway line is in real-time data," Dunlop wrote to Lifewire in an email.

Helping Businesses Stay In Business

For businesses trying to navigate the pandemic while keeping customers updated and safe, Google Maps has provided lots of resources since the start of the pandemic. 

Last March, Google encouraged businesses to update their current hours in Google My Business—which directly connects to Google Maps—since the coronavirus outbreak has caused many small businesses to either close or reduce their operating hours. Google also lets businesses create a post about how and if they have been affected by the coronavirus, and what precautions they are taking.

Experts say these features are essential for both customers and business owners alike during the constant changing of regulations. 

A shop owner turning a 'welcome we are open' sign.
Cavan Images / Getty Images

"For people who need to take additional health precautions, current information about a local business’s adjusted hours, 'at risk' shopping times, curbside/delivery options, temp checks, and sanitization process is crucial," wrote Stephen Gagnon, the founder of CodeWeb, to Lifewire in an email. "Google Maps saves consumers time by offering all of that information in one place."

As far as business owners, the Google Maps updates allowing restaurants to customize their hours have been a lifesaver for many struggling businesses. 

"The most helpful of these updates has been the addition of special hours. Restaurants can add hours for take-out versus delivery versus indoor seating, and my clients are able to add special hours where they are virtual versus in person," Madi McMaster, the community development director at BluShark Digital, wrote in an email. 

Overall, in these uncertain times, experts say Google Maps has been continuously making changes to its app, reflecting the current regulations and encouraging safety and education for everyone. 

"Google Maps updates have been a few streaks of silver in the dark cloud," wrote Caroline Lee, the marketing director at CocoSign, in an email. "In retrospect, I feel that the app has helped users, a lot, during the pandemic."

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