July 29, 2021
New York’s mayor has opted to put away the stick and reveal a stash of new carrots – $100 prepaid debit cards for those who get the Covid-19 jab – despite a slew of previous measures failing to grab their attention.
“We wanted to supercharge it by saying we’ll give you an extra, direct, personal incentive to get this done now,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told the city on Wednesday, making it clear that New York’s future was one in which “more and more things are going to be determined by whether you’re vaccinated or not.”
Some 54.4% of New Yorkers had been fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, with the number jumping to 65.5% for fully vaccinated adults.
The latest incentive comes after the city and various corporate partners have offered free MetroCards, Junior’s cheesecake, Krispy Kreme donuts, and Nathan’s hot dogs (seemingly choosing to overlook Covid-19’s obesity comorbidity), lottery tickets, Uber and Lyft rides to vaccination sites, museum tickets, and scholarships. Free marijuana was even provided, technically illegally, by an activist group, thanks to Cuomo dragging his feet on appointing the necessary supervisory board after legalizing sale of the drug in March. The city even offered free vaccinations to tourists in what turned out to be a woefully premature anticipation of New York “opening up” for tourism once again.
Many were skeptical that the payment – a pittance in a location where the average rent approaches a whopping $4,000 per month – would get people to the needle who hadn’t already had their shots, while others wondered the reverse: what would stop people from wandering in for repeat shots every time they needed cash?
With comparatively few New Yorkers having been hospitalized across the city since the height of the deadly pandemic, many have begun thinking the pandemic is over – a view that even universal mandatory masking hasn’t completely been able to shake, and which slipped even further during the few mask-free weeks the city recently enjoyed.
However, some, including conservative Dilbert cartoonist Sam Adams, have pointed out that de Blasio was using an “effective persuasion technique” – incentivizing people to do something, especially with money, is often a surefire win, especially with those who are desperate or thinking in the short-term, like cash-strapped New Yorkers often are.
De Blasio made the announcement just days after warning city employees that they must vaccinate by September or be tested weekly, implying that they could face the loss of their job otherwise – and many were no doubt still emotionally reeling at having such a diktat dropped in their lap. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a similar announcement that day, reminding state workers that they had until Labor Day to get vaccinated, and that any unionized workers who experienced negative side effects from the vaccine would be permitted to take as many paid days off as they needed to recover.