What if you got paid to be Covid-free? It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

CoviDollars: A better way out of this mess?

By objective measures, we aren’t managing this virus well. Sure, many of us are following the “rules” -we’re masking up, keeping our distance and so on- but many of us aren’t. That’s understandable, to an extent: We humans aren’t nearly as rational as we like to think, after all.

But we need to try something different. I propose a solution. I call it CoviDollars: Fiscal stimulus checks, with a twist.

“A vaccine will rapidly bring us back to normal.” Not so fast.

“The vaccines are coming!” We hope so. What a lot of people may not realize, however, is that pre-Covid life with the flu vaccine and life with a Covid vaccine (or vaccines) will be two different ball games, at least as things currently stand.

Think about it. When you get a flu shot, like any vaccine, you never know for certain when your immunity has worn off. That’s okay, however, because chances are really good that you’ll be okay. Thus, pre-Covid life with the flu was relatively “frictionless,” even if you chose not to get the flu shot. (Unfortunately, most Americans don’t get it.) No masks, no social distancing, no problem.

Remember the “good old” days?

Not so with a Covid vaccine. Covid is both more contagious and harmful than the flu (at least, it has been to date), and we currently lack broadly effective treatments to serve as a backstop when a vaccine wears off or it otherwise fails to protect you as intended. For these reasons, much of the new-found friction that currently exists in our social and economic lives will remain. Bottom line: When a vaccine arrives, life is unlikely to rapidly return to the “frictionless normal” we took for granted.

CoviDollars

Which brings us back to CoviDollars. Again, many of us will continue to follow sensible guidelines like masking up, keeping our distance and, when one becomes available, getting a vaccine. But many of us will not. That’s human nature. Which is why we need an economic nudge to help us return to frictionless normal faster. That’s CoviDollars.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe we need more stimulus checks of the kind the federal government has already issued, particularly for those in the middle and lower ends of the income spectrum, and health care workers and others fighting Covid on the front lines. In addition, I’m proposing that the government provide CoviDollars: a monthly stimulus “bonus” check issued as long as you remain Covid-free, as verified by free, 3rd-party testing.

CoviDollars can cross political divides.

No system is perfect, of course. CoviDollars will create plenty of challenges (testing!). But, and this is extremely important, it will also incentivize the public to take sensible precautions, like wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and taking a vaccine, not on the basis of whether or not it “jibes with their tribe” (e.g. political leaning) or the like, but because it helps their pocketbook. That’s an important distinction, one that will help us get our social and economic lives back to frictionless normal faster.

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