Early on in the pandemic, the New York City Department of Health released a set of guidelines in a one-sheet aimed at addressing many of our sex-related questions, even though not much was known about the virus. As New York was heading into the first phase of reopening, an update to guidelines opened the door for glory holes. Now the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control has recommended the time-honored glory hole as a safe sex barrier to COVID-19.
"Updated guidance on sex in the age of [the pandemic,]" New York's Dr. Demetre Daskalakis wrote in a tweet, linking to the new guidelines. "The pandemic changes and so does our guidance."
While the new "safer sex" guidelines still maintain that "you are your safest sex partner," followed by the consenting adult that you live with, the department's professionals have provided some guidance for those who just can't make that work. They advise limiting contact with anyone outside of the house and say that "if two is company then three (or more) is definitely a crowd," and as a result not safe. Still, if you have decided to go out with a group, "pick larger, more open, and well-ventilated spaces," wear a mask and avoid kissing or touching your face, and "bring an alcohol-based hand sanitizer."
The New York guidelines also still recommend that you rely on virtual sex if possible, and in addition to all of the other testing you do as a sexually active person, consider adding an antibody test regularly. But when getting down to the actual acts, there are some things to know. We don't know whether rimming could spread the virus, but that's a possibility. Also, you should consider wearing "a face covering or mask" that covers your nose and mouth as "heavy breathing and panting" could spread things. They also explicitly advise making things kinky by getting "creative with sexual positions and physical barriers, like walls."
To that end, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control likewise recommends masturbation as the safest way to engage in sex in the time of COVID, but it also has a list of recommended precautions explicitly calling for the use of glory holes as a safer sex tool.
Under a section titled "Steps to protect yourself during sex," the B.C. CDC suggests, "Use barriers, like walls (e.g., glory holes), that allow for sexual contact but prevent close face-to-face contact."
That said, hygiene is key. Make sure to wash up before and after! And we would assume that using multiple glory holes back to back — as is the habit at some venues — probably defeats the purpose.
The NYC Department of Health's new rules, released in June, came after a study by Harvard physicians published in Annals of Internal Medicine also advocated for the use of masks.
Oh, and condoms still help! "Condoms and dental dams can reduce contact with saliva, semen, or feces" during sex, which could mitigate transmission. To that end, the department has launched Door 2 Door, a citywide home delivery service that provides at-home HIV testing, emergency contraception, post-exposure prophylaxis, condoms, and more.