News & Politics

QR Codes Won the Pandemic

From restaurant menus to the Kennedy Center, the symbols have taken off.

Photograph by nensuria, via iStock.

QR codes have been around for years, but during the pandemic, the distinctive digital boxes have really taken off. Here’s a look at some of the ways you can use these scannable symbols.

Prove You’re Vaccinated

Rather than toting around those flimsy CDC cards, inoculated Virginians are now able to download a personalized code to their phones. The Virginia Department of Health inscribes each with a digital signature to prevent counterfeiting.

Choose Your Meal

Some germ-conscious restaurants have ditched sticky physical menus in favor of codes displayed on each table for pulling up an online list of offerings. Spots such as Lulu’s Winegarden near U Street even let you peruse, order, and pay for your dishes online to minimize contact with waitstaff.

Learn at Museums

The Smithsonian is using the technology at the National Air and Space Museum, where visitors can access info about the building’s layout, and at the Arts and Industries Building, where a new exhibit offers further details about items on display via the codes.

Read About the Symphony

The Kennedy Center did away with paper programs when audiences returned in September. Now patrons can scan QR codes to scroll through programs on their devices. Just don’t forget to turn them off once the lights go down.

This article appears in the November 2021 issue of Washingtonian.

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Daniella Byck
Assistant Editor

Daniella Byck joined Washingtonian in August 2018. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied journalism and digital culture.