A couple of years ago Google had released an ad campaign called, “Look before you leave.” The basic plot of the campaign suggested that one should look up their destination on Google Maps before leaving, to see the fastest and the most traffic-free route. Fast forward to 2020, ‘looking before leaving’ can do more than just save you from traffic. 2020 has been the year of masks, social distancing, and staying in as much as possible. but on the rare occasion where you do have to step out, we suggest you take a look at Google Maps first. And not just to find the fastest route to your destination.

stepping outside in covid times? look at google maps before you leave! - google maps covid

With Covid-19 spreading at a faster pace than ever before, some of the new features Google has added to the Google Maps app can actually help you stay safe when you have to step out or even when you need general assistance. Some generic features can come in handy during these times.

So in case you have to step out, here is a list of information you can get through Google Maps (Note: remember to update your Google Maps from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store:

Put on some layers: Check if cases are going up/down in an area

One of the most important features Google has added to the Maps is the ability to show whether cases have gone up or down in a particular area or state. Before you decide to visit your destination, you can check it on Google Maps. Turn on the Covid-19 layer on the app, and see at what rate and speed the virus is spreading in that area, and make an informed decision.

stepping outside in covid times? look at google maps before you leave! - google maps covidlayer

1. Put in your destination in the search box.

2. Tap on the Layers icon present on the top right side of your screen.

3. Once you open the Layers option, select the Covid-19 Info layer out of the options present.

The color of your Google Maps would change as per the number of new cases coming up in that area. The layer displays a 7-day average for the number of new cases per 100,000 people. Arrows going upwards, downwards, or straight ahead will indicate if the cases in that area are going up, down, or are constant.

Google has picked different colors to indicate different numbers. The Map will turn grey if there is less than one case in the area. It will turn yellow if the cases are between 1-10. The color of the map will turn orange if the cases are between 10-20 and similarly go all the way up to dark red with dark orange and red in between.

This information is only available for selected areas/states/countries. Here’s hoping more regions get covered in the coming days. We do need them.

Is it crowded: Look before you leave

Just dodging traffic is not enough when you are stepping out anymore. You have to know how to avoid crowds as well and this is a feature that is available on Google Maps. In fact, it was available long before Covid-19 was even a thing.

stepping outside in covid times? look at google maps before you leave! - crowded

1. In order to know the crowd levels at a place all you need to do is type the destination in the search box.

2. When the place comes up, instead of starting the trip, pull the tab up with your destination’s information on it, scroll down and you will find a graph indicating the crowd levels at the place at different times of the day (be specific for best results and name a shop or a place you intend to visit – naming a general region will not help as much).

3. You can even swipe the graphs to see how busy the place is on each day of the week roughly and how much time people generally spend there.

This can actually be a life-saving feature and we hope you look this up before you leave.

Is the place even open? Well, check please!

These are unpredictable times and with Covid-19 around, not all businesses are open at all times. If you need information regarding which business is open around you or want to know the timings of a particular enterprise, you can just look it up on Google Maps.

stepping outside in covid times? look at google maps before you leave! - google maps covid open

1. You need to put the name of the business in the search box.

2. When the place comes up on the map you have to swipe the information tab up instead of starting the trip and in there you will find a tiny blue clock icon next to which there will be information about whether the place is open at the moment and when it closes.

3. If it is not open now and is operational then its opening and closing times will be shown. If it is non-operational temporarily, it will be ‘Temporarily closed’ and if it is permanently shut then you will find ‘Closed’ written next to the clock icon.

Once again, make sure the place you are going to visit is actually open. It might save you an unnecessary trip.

Takeout restaurants beat dining out now-a-days…so find out!

Staying at home does not mean you cannot binge eat from your favorite restaurant with due precautions. And you can find which restaurants near you are delivering or the restaurants that are open for takeaways by just opening up Google Maps. This is again one of those features that were present on the app pre-Covid-19 but have become even more useful during these times. To find out which restaurants or eateries near you are delivering or are open for takeaway orders:

stepping outside in covid times? look at google maps before you leave! - covid takeaway

1. Open the Google Maps app and tap on the “Takeaway” present amongst the tabs under the search box.

2. Once you tap on the Takeaway tab, you can even filter the choices by using filters available on the app like “Offers”, “Cuisine”, “Top-Rated” amongst others.

3. You can even call the restaurant of your choice and place your order.

Now you can stay home, stay (relatively safe) and still eat to your heart’s content.

Is there a doc around? Well, look!

stepping outside in covid times? look at google maps before you leave! - hospital

While we hope you and everyone you know stay safe at all times and never need to actually use this information, it is a very important and valuable feature that Google has added to the Maps app. It actually allows you to look up Covid-19 related health care facilities in a particular area – hospitals are marked in red and tapping on each shows contact details and if they handle Covid-19 patients. Now, this data is dependent on the sources and most of Google’s sources are government websites, public healthcare departments, or health institutions themselves. So you can get a fair idea of where you can go if you need medical assistance with regards to Covid-19. HopThis feature is only available in selected countries which include Brazil, Bangladesh, Australia, India, United States, United Kingdom, Cambodia amongst others.

Google Maps could help keep you safe in this pandemic period. All you have to do is look. Before you leave. Or to paraphrase a very famous line from another brand: “Google Maps. Do not leave home without (consulting) it in these Covid times.”

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