Covid Precautions Are Still With Us. Just Look Down.

In the early days of the Covid pandemic, public health experts announced that maintaining a distance of six feet between yourself and other people would help prevent the spread of the virus. Seemingly overnight, stickers began to appear on the floors of grocery stores, post offices, pharmacies, and other public spaces, as well as the sidewalks in front of them. Placed six feet apart, they helped us navigate the directive to distance ourselves, indicating where we should stand to be safe.

Many of the stickers were cheerfully colored and most bore words of instruction: Stand here. Maintain your distance. Stop the spread. Others were more polite, adding pleases and thank-yous. Some advertised products. Others simply said, “Stay safe.”

Some shop owners chose to forgo the stickers in favor of a customized approach. Sometimes this was just a big duct-taped X or a spray-painted pair of shoes in which you placed your feet like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.

Whenever we ventured out of the house in those first dark months, we took our places on these dots with a mixture of annoyance and fear: Is the person in front of me going to get the last roll of paper towels? Am I being exposed? Is standing here worth the risk of dreadful sickness or worse?

Four years later, the need for social distancing has receded, but the markers — now tattered — serve as a reminder of that surreal time when we struggled to protect ourselves, collectively yet in isolation, from an invisible enemy.

Sara Barrett is a senior photo editor in Opinion.

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