Coronavirus Chronicles

The Most Surreal Safety Measures We Took to Prevent Covid

Those early pandemic days sure were something.

By Angela Cabotaje

It may be the time of free N95 masks and rapid tests galore, but it wasn't always that way. Remember when we lost our collective, uh, stuff over toilet paper and bought all the beans? Since then, we've weathered surges and learned about variants. We got vaxxed, then boosted

But back in the early days of Covid, when we were still fashioning our own face coverings from handkerchiefs and rubber bands, our public health officials suggested a whole bunch of safety measures that, in hindsight, were actually pretty weird. For the record, yes, we recognize the near-impossible task that our medical experts had with the limited knowledge available to them at the time...but a shower curtain sex barrier? Really? Here are some of the more memorable measures of yore.

Grocery wipe-downs

Lysol wipes were a hot commodity during the Great Grocery Store Run of spring 2020. In those days, we thought surface-to-hand transmission was a much larger threat than it turned out to be. Wiping down door knobs and countertops made sense at the time. But dousing everything from your cereal boxes to your bananas with disinfectant? Maybe not so much.

Shower curtain sex barriers

Who knew the words "glory hole," later followed by the prayer hands and hole emojis, would come from an official social media channel for Public Health—Seattle and King County. In this October 9, 2020, Instagram post, Public Health scripted a text chat between fictional character Mask 4 Mask and their partner, describing creative ways to have safe sex in the time of Covid. Let's just say it concludes with a shopping trip to Lowe's to buy a shower curtain. You can fill in the rest.

Halloween candy chutes

We understand the internal scream public health officials had to muffle while trying to figure out how not to cancel Halloween. Some ideas they came up with, like individual candy bags for trick-or-treaters to grab, made total sense. Others...not so much. Enter the candy chute, a DIY cardboard or PVC tube used to slide all manner of sugar into a child's Halloween bag. In theory, they were touted as a way to "save Halloween." In practice, the effort level required to make the dang things was way more than whatever those kids put into their store-bought costumes is all we're gonna say.

Protective plastic barriers

The Chipotle sneeze guard found new life at practically every checkout stand, restaurant, open office, and classroom as instructed by everyone from the Centers for Disease Control to the University of Washington. Turns out, they may have actually made the problem worse. A November 2021 review indicated that while these barriers may have helped redirect aerosols, they often provided a false sense of security, were implemented incorrectly, and had to be paired with proper ventilation to be truly effective.

Cuddle curtains and hug suits

In an effort to protect the most vulnerable populations in those scary first days of the pandemic, many family members went without hugging each other for months. Then someone came up with the idea of cuddle curtains, a hanging plastic sheet with improvised sleeves that allows two individuals to embrace without actually touching each other. Others tried inflatable T.rex costumes to hug it out...only to find out later that they're not actually virus proof. Whoops.

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