Health Official at Covid Briefing Recommends ‘Random Reward System’ for Mask-Wearing on College Campuses: ‘It Could be a Small Gift’


Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary Elinore McCance-Katz on Thursday suggested colleges use “random” rewards to encourage students to wear face masks as the Covid-19 pandemic rages out of control across the country.

“We know masks work, but some Americans are not sure, and may not be as compliant as we’d like,” McCance-Katz said at a Thursday evening briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. “This is gravely frustrating for local officials. But rather than punishing or sanctioning, what if we employ a different technique? What if we recognize the psychological aspects of the fatigue and try to reenforce positive behavior with rewards rather, than solely sanction what we deem to be bad behavior?”

She offered higher-education settings as an example where administrators could deploy the new strategy, and suggested they try offering gift cards. “We know that compliance on college campuses has been a challenge, and individuals in this age group are a potential source of spread,” McCance-Katz noted. “What if colleges implemented a random reward system for mask-wearing? This could be as simple as a small gift card given out to a student wearing a mask.”

McCance-Katz, a psychiatrist who holds a Ph.D from Yale with a specialty in infectious disease epidemiology, has served as an assistant secretary of mental health and substance use in the Trump administration since 2017. She served previously under President Barack Obama as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s top official.

Her suggestion comes amid record high Covid-19 positive cases and hospitalizations, with nearly every state experiencing out-of-control spread of the virus. “I offer it as a consideration which acknowledges the psychological aspects of our life changes,” she added.

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