First, it was about the group pod or small groups of people sticking together throughout the pandemic. People began using learning pods as a way to work and live during coronavirus.
“Being in a pod is like being in a little rowboat together and trying to stay dry,” says Preeti Malani, M.D., an infectious disease physician at the University of Michigan’s academic medical center, Michigan Medicine. “If someone from the boat jumps into the water and then tries to climb back on board, the boat could tip – or they could get their fellow passengers wet. Taking on too many passengers could make the boat sink.”
So, manufacturers got to work and created a new solution. In June, the safety pod was born.
What Are Safety Pods and How Do They Work?
The selection of Under the Weather (UTW) Safety Pods are one-person mobile pods that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The leading manufacturer sprung from none other than Shark Tank for its original invention of pop-up weather pods. Owner Rick Pescovitz has now restricted his creation to provide a COVID-friendly version to help protect you from the growing pandemic.
The flagship model ShieldPod is slim with a lightweight build that affords you a 270-degree view and easy pop-up design that takes just seconds to prepare. There are also wearable options built for free movement and air circulation through the open bottom. The child-sized ShieldPod Mini version, intended for kids from preschool to ten years old, is so popular it’s already sold out in some options.
Going to a concert or game? Even though many stadiums and venues are offering limited seating, the stadium pod offers a play on the ChairPod that is specifically designed for those home games and live events. Also called the DeskPod, it's the company’s smallest wearable pod and even has a Stadium PodChair that you can add on to your purchase.
This model is designed for professionals and other users who find themselves in hazardous situations. Available in short or tall, there are also the added protections of reflecting stripes, extra-bright safety colors and what the company calls its StormStop form-fitting button for a snug, weatherproof fit.
This is the option for those who are wheelchair-bound. With three color options, it’s an abbreviated form of the original with a snug fit or sedentary-based lifestyle, desk work, or people with plans to spend a lot of time seated. The company claims the zip closure will keep you up to 35 degrees warmer during cool weather.
However, around the world, all different kinds of businesses and establishments are instituting their own "pods" in order to protect customers. Toronto’s Lmnts Outdoor Studio offers pop-up yoga pods with personal heat controls. Meanwhile in Amsterdam, diners at the breathtaking art center at Mediamatic are dining in miniature, COVID-friendly greenhouses. The band The Flaming Lips even performed using personal bubbles not just for every member of the band but also for each audience member, as well.
In the U.K., medical facilities are already benefiting from new safety pods. UK PODS LTD has models already in use for NHS medical departments abroad, while Lasermet specializes in coronavirus assessment pods that work as testing pods for England’s hospitals.
Benefits of the Safety Pod for Healthcare Workers
These safety pods are already in regular use and high demand for their many benefits.
UK POD LTD delivers a model that is durable and tough with a CRIB7 safety rating. It adds other benefits, including:
- No risk of positional asphyxiation
- Improves client care
- Less time and injury involved in treatment
- Easy to clean
Here in the U.S., UTW Pods delivers the Intubation Pod for $59.99. Its portable, pop-up design is meant to protect those under medical care and therefore bed-bound. UTW Pods explains this model is “designed to help encapsulate potentially aerosolized contagions and aids in protecting healthcare worker’s ambient environment from contaminant diffusion.”
While his products were in development, UTW Pod owner Pecovitz said he received inquiries from multiple industries, such as education, retail, aviation, corporate offices and 911 call centers.
It’s pretty easy to see why. It’s a design specifically made for medical staff that need accessibility and speed in a hurry. There are arm slits over the head and zippered windows.
The website says that "tested and proprietary weatherproof materials and construction ensure your [health care] employees are shielded, dry, and comfortable so they can focus on getting the job done."
"So the intubation pod is a smaller pod," explains Kelly Mahan, President of Under the Weather. "It's the same design. It's made with the same PVC materials that we use for our outdoor pods and it's designed to fit over the head of a patient."
Deployment takes just seconds, and there is no assembly required. It also weighs less than a pound and folds flat, so it works in pop-up shelters and mobile testing centers or treatment facilities.
UTW products also do not rely upon plexiglass, which experts fear will face shortages with such increased demand due to COVID. Many restaurants, stores and shops have already implemented plexiglass partitions to shield employees and shoppers, and as the weather gets colder, demand is only expected to grow.
Also in the business of making safety pods is LumAware Safety, founded by firefighter Zachery Green. Though his company is working with the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI) to make better safety signs for firefighters, he caved to consumer demand and started manufacturing better plexiglass options for businesses.
Speaking specifically about COVID-19, he explains, "The timing is so important as we all come back to work and we are all, by CDC guidelines, to have a protective barrier if you cannot maintain social distancing," he says.
Issues With the Safety Pod
The safety pods haven’t been in use long enough to see any long-term effects or benefits. In the meantime, though, UTW is very clear about its guarantees and policies.
The website reads that “Under the Weather makes no guarantee of non-transmission for any of its products,” exempting itself from liability relating to coronavirus.
To benefit from the return and warranty policies, you must purchase from official retailers such as their website, Amazon, DICK’s Sporting Goods, Field & Stream, SCHEELS and Walmart.
Some models, such as the ShieldPod, show a "patent-pending" warning, although the return and warranty disclaimer describes them as already being patented.
Finally, while UTW remains busy taking and fulfilling orders for its products, not all experts are convinced these safety pods are the answer.
“If there’s a malfunction, I worry about the child’s air supply,” Wisconsin pediatrician Dr. Dipesh Navsaria told Huffington Post.
Meanwhile, pediatric hospitalist Dr. Jamie Macklin told Today that he doesn’t recommend masks for younger children because their airways are small and they run the risk of suffocating. Also on Today, family doctor Dr. Deborah Gilboa discussed the fact that children are asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus, so the CDC-recommended preventive protocols are still your best course of action.
Why You Need a Safety Pod
People are taking their safety seriously. Pescovitz says his preorders for the Shield Pod accounted for about 2,000 sales.
“It creates a barrier, so by no means are we saying this is preventing the spread of COVID, and we’re not telling you not to wear a mask instead of wearing this, but we worked with physicians and medical scientists as we’ve created it,” he says. “Because of the materials and the treatments of our materials, it is a successful barrier but it also allows people to be able to be mobile and walk around.”
Pescovitz isn’t the only one. In May, Parisian restaurants began investing in plexiglass shields reminiscent of giant lampshades to shield you from your dining companions and restaurant staff. One such model, the Plex’Eat, was so popular that over five different countries reached out to French designer Christophe Gernigon with interest.
The return of winter weather will undoubtedly affect our daily routines, especially during a pandemic. Worse, experts are saying that the cooler temperatures will further exacerbate the disease, heightening infection and causing greater spread.
The Bottom Line
Experts predict that by the end of 2020, we’ll see a resurgence of the disease, killing more than 2,900 people each day in the U.S. alone. Something has to be done, but it turns out we already may have the solution.
Pescovitz insists his safety pods are no laughing matter. “It was a laughing matter for a lot of people, but so far, a couple thousand people have reached out,” he said in July. “We’ve sold it to school systems in bulk orders that haven’t even arrived yet so that’s not even part of the 2,000.”
Meanwhile, in LA, the pop-up parties and happy hours have already begun, offering a social reprieve from the cabin fever that’s dominated as 2020.