A year and a half ago, few would have predicted that we would be where we are today. That is, in an almost-but-not-quite-post-pandemic world. And while nobody asked for a pandemic or enjoyed the changes it brought to everyday life, we were forced to make sacrifices and to take on the responsibility of doing what we know is right in the interest of both personal and public health and safety. In the future, once those things are no longer at risk, I think we’d all love to go carefree and maskless again. Right now, though, the delta variant is running rampant, and many children still aren’t able to get vaccinated. Accordingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised people over the age of two who remain unvaccinated to continue wearing masks indoors. If we continue to follow these guidelines, together, we can emerge from the pandemic safely, once and for all.
Covid-19 has presented our country with a typical collective action problem, a situation in which individuals’ self-interest conflicts with that of the group. If most individuals act in accordance with the group’s interest — wearing masks, getting vaccinated, and following CDC guidelines — they will achieve public good. Of course, this allows some individuals to act selfishly — choosing not to do those things for personal convenience — and still reap the benefits of the public good due to the responsibility of others. But if enough individuals choose not to participate, trying to get a free ride on the way to a post-pandemic world, that good cannot be achieved.
The most effective way to obtain this public good is by reaching herd immunity, which can be done if a great enough percentage of the population gets vaccinated against Covid-19. One obstacle to realizing this outcome is the fact that not all individuals in our society are currently able to take that action; children under the age of 12 cannot yet be inoculated. With that sector of the population out of the question when it comes to herd immunity, the responsibility falls even more on us as adults (and older adolescents) to do what is necessary to move our country forward. This means that those who are able to should get vaccinated, and those who are unable to should wear masks. That is our path toward public good. In recent months, however, with the widespread lifting of mask mandates, there has been a shift. The majority of people no longer wear masks in public places — because they aren’t required to. Likewise, come fall, many schools will no longer ask students to wear masks, and because we know how people behave, if it isn’t a rule, most people won’t do it. While CDC guidelines recommend that many school-age children wear masks due to their unvaccinated status, without enforcement, this suggestion will likely be dismissed by many.
Luckily, some outstanding individuals are using Magnify to step up in their communities and advocate for mask requirements in their school districts for all unvaccinated children, faculty, and staff. Dr. Sarah Wilson Sokhey from Boulder County, CO, and Dr. Leah Windsor from Shelby County, TN, created projects on our engagement platform asking users to contact their respective counties’ superintendents about requiring masks in their schools. They both shared information about the CDC’s July 9 announcement, “Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools,” and posted a sample email for their project followers to send to the county’s superintendent or public health office, urging them to require masks in school this fall. Both projects emphasize the importance of protecting our communities’ children and prioritizing their safety, as they are a sizable “vaccine-ineligible” portion of our population.
For Dr. Windsor, another big part of her project was “[giving] a voice to all of the parents who we know are saying they’re really concerned about this school year … In wanting to be cooperative and not adversarial,” she said “[the parents] wanted to inform the policy before it was made … [and] to be partners with the school district.” She explained how Magnify allowed them to do exactly that. “The strength of Magnify is that it helped the silent majority organize and find their voice. It was just such an easy platform to use, and we will definitely use it again,” she said. In the end, Shelby County will be requiring masks in schools starting this fall, and Dr. Windsor said that although they’ll never know for sure, “it is possible that just a few emails to the superintendent tipped the scales.” Regardless, this is a success for her community, especially for the parents involved in the movement. Magnify gave them a platform for working toward their goal and will continue to do so. In this process, it became evident to Dr. Windsor that “there is a need for more parental organization within the district, so [they’re] going to leverage this success to organize more parents” going forward, she said.
These projects are a wonderful example of how Magnify can be used to take action in your community and to solve collective action problems. This platform allows you to garner the support of those around you geographically and online to tackle the issues that are important to you. And our game-like system of rewarding users with points for their actions provides an incentive for getting involved in more projects like these. Incentives for acting in the public interest during this pandemic have been all over; rideshare services are offering free trips to vaccine appointments, Krispy Kreme is giving free donuts to vaccinated patrons, etc. Whether your motivation is Magnify points to move you up the leaderboard or glazed donuts to satisfy your sweet tooth, incentives are a key part of getting individuals to act in the interest of the greater good and to getting us through (hopefully) the last stretch of this pandemic. And maybe, just like Dr. Windsor’s, one project at a time, we can protect our communities’ children by getting schools to #maskup this fall.