Google Maps Now Shows COVID Hotspots

John Lister's picture

Google has added an optional setting for its Maps tool showing the levels of reported COVID-19 infections in an area. However, users need to check exactly what area the data covers.

For now the feature is only available on mobile apps rather than the desktop website version. It's also rolling out slowly, and may not be available immediately.

Once available, the feature is accessible by tapping the layers button in the top-right corner of the screen. That's the button with an icon similar to a diamond with a v-shape underneath.

This will then show the map in marked areas. Each area will have a number, which is the average number of new daily COVID cases reported across the previous week per 100,000 people in the area. This allows a fairer comparison as some health authority recording processes mean cases appear artificially low at weekends and high on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Red For Danger

Next to the number, the app will display a line-graph like arrow that shows if cases are rising or falling in the area. Both the number and arrow will be color coded, with grey showing virtually no cases, and then yellow, orange, dark orange, red and dark red showing higher numbers, with dark red meaning more than 40 cases per 100,000.

Google says the data is authoritative as it comes from sources including the New York Times, Johns Hopkins University and Wikipedia. The latter certainly sounds an odd "source" though Google says it is drawing specifically from listings which derive from public health organizations. (Source: blog.google)

Country Or County

The biggest drawback is that although map data is available for nearly 220 countries, the level of detail varies greatly. In some regions the figure covers an entire country, while in the Midwestern areas of the US it's only on a state-by-state basis. (Source: mirror.co.uk)

In more populous areas with solid reporting, the figures cover smaller areas. For example, Florida has data by individuals counties while in some places it drills down to a single city.

How useful that data is depends on what people want from it. Google suggests it can help people make more informed decisions about which locations are and aren't safe to visit on the balance of risk.

What's Your Opinion?

Is this feature useful? Do you trust Google to present reliable data? How small an area would the stats need to cover to make it truly valuable?

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Average: 4.3 (3 votes)

Comments

Navy vet's picture

We are overloaded with information already. We don't need more crap like this or the one that tells you how long to wash your hands.

Unrecognised's picture

I disagree that having a better idea of where the virus is most rife is "crap". "Crap" is ignoring basic precautionary health directives and spreading the illness. Which a large section of the population is clearly doing...and hence they DO need more information. There will never be enough until it's heeded and the virus vanquished.

Unfortunately in a selfish, disagreeable culture some people don't want to cooperate to do their part.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200907112337.htm

russoule's picture

absolutely! and what kind of "data" is this anyway? "Don't go to Okeechobee County because there were 20 new cases out of 20,000 people or .1% new cases!" if GOOGLE really wanted to help, they should map out the overloaded hospital systems so people would be better informed as to where they can get the medical help they need. this Covid thing appears to be just another way to try and scare the public.

Unrecognised's picture

The "data" (not real data, you think?) is the best we so far have for assisting the public in making informed decisions to protect their lives against this deadly illness.
If fewer people are able to avoid hotspots and therefore don't get sick, hospitals will be less overloaded.

No, this has not been done to scare people. Try this for scary:
https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

...and don't rationalise it. Face how you'd really feel if one of those more than a million dead was just about to be you, or someone you love.

russoule's picture

my comment wasn't meant to trigger the left ito a melt-down. it was a serious pont that I wanted to make. a "hot-spot" is not really a "hot-spot" if the number of "new cases" is a fairly small percentage of the local population. when a city the size of New York has a new case load of 1,500 people - THAT is a "hot-spot". but if the rural county of Okochobee has an increase of 50%, that means it went up by 5 people since there were only 10 infected on the day before. or if Tampa has an increase of 20 people infected, the true percentage of increased infections would be 100/393,000 total population or .025%

if the media were to actually use "data" that showed the possibility of infection instead of skewing it to either actual count or percentage increase depending on the "crisis" it creates, we would be much better off.

if Google wants to be part of the media, than it should choose to give legitimate info and not the "scariest" info it can generate. tell us which hospitals are overloaded. that is important, not whether Crystal River had a increase of 30% or whether Tampa had 100 new infected or whether New York City had a decrease of 300 infections.

Bringing the "How would you feel" stuff into it is silly because we would all feel terrible if it were our family/friends. But that is true if it were family/friends dying of cancer or diabetes or heart attacks or H1N1 Flu or any other disease. Hiding in the closet might stop all those diseases, but who wants to live inside the closet?

Unrecognised's picture

Hotspot data, whatever it's called, whether it's hospitals or elsewhere, will help the public avoid hotspots. How scary that info is depends on how scared people are by the prospect of catching Covid. Don't live a sheltered, 'closeted' existence if you don't want to (though not to take due care, and therefore to spread the illness is both irrepsonsible and selfish); however others may like to have the useful hotspot info provided by google.

This has nothing to do with partisan politics. Covid doesn't give a crap whether you're 'Left' or 'Right' no matter how much you may relish signalling that to humans who are uninterested. Infection control should not be politicised.