These timely app updates have your safety (and sanity) in mind.

By Maggie Seaver
June 24, 2020
Woman wearing a face mask outside and looking at her phone
Credit: Getty Images/F.J. Jimenez

Even as things start to reopen in the U.S. after months on lockdown, the reality is that getting around could be a bit more complicated in the coming weeks. Thankfully, Google Maps has rolled out some cool new COVID-19-related features to help users stay smart, safe, and alert while readjusting to public life and daily routines. Not to mention how important it still is for essential workers to be able to get around safely and quickly.

Since the rollout of reopening phases differs between states at the moment—and sometimes between municipalities within the same state—Google Maps’ new capabilities provide citizens with customized and up-to-date info on things like upcoming driver COVID checkpoints, state border restrictions, public transit crowdedness, medical facility availability, and more. Here are five timely updates, available on both iOS and Android, that’ll keep you protected and in-the-know when venturing out by car or transit.

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1. COVID-related public transit alerts

It’s never been more important to know before you go. Maps now informs users whether or not their chosen route has been affected by coronavirus, including alerts for government-mandated route delays/closings and specific mask requirements. You’ll be able to see transit roadblocks in advance and adjust your schedule and directions accordingly.

2. Notifications for COVID checkpoints and restrictions on driving routes

Drivers can also receive alerts about COVID-19 checkpoints and restrictions while en route. Any route impacted will show an alert on the directions screen once you start navigation.

3. Medical and testing facility information

Getting tested? Google Maps is offering users a helping hand to expedite the process. If using the Maps app for directions to a testing center or other medical facility, you’ll see a reminder alert outlining facility guidelines and prompting you to verify eligibility in advance. This is to help “avoid being turned away or causing additional strain on the local healthcare system,” Google explains in a blog post announcing the update.

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4. Crowd reports on public transit

Social distancing remains a priority for everyone. To dodge crowded buses, subway stations, train cars, and more, check Google Maps to see when certain spots are historically the busiest (then avoid those times as best you can). To do so, “simply search for a station in Google Maps or tap on the station on the map to see the departure board and busyness data, where available,” the Google announcement reads. Insights are current and informed by real feedback from previous riders.

5. Search filters to find discounted hotel rooms for COVID first responders

Essential workers looking for alternate accommodations during the pandemic (to stay close to work and safely distant from loved ones at home), use the special new search filter in Google Maps (or the Google Search bar) to find hotels offering free or discounted rooms, as well as other perks and deals, specifically for frontline heroes.

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