If you’ve been looking for the New York City (NYC) Covid Alert system since the end of last week, you wouldn’t have found one. In fact, checking NYC Health website was where the alert system used be posted would have revealed the following message: “We are re-evaluating the city’s COVID Alert system. Check back here for updates in the coming weeks.” Meanwhile, as data that’s still on the NYC Health website demonstrates, the Big Apple has been experiencing what the website calls, “high transmission levels of Covid-19 throughout the city.”
This is definitely a situation when being high is not a good idea. As I covered on Sunday ForbesConcerns exist that NYC may be experiencing another Covid-19 surge. This could be due to the spreading of the BA.5 Omicron Omicron subvariant (SARS-CoV-2). The BA.5 is more transmissible than previous versions, and it has a different protein configuration so that it might be able to evade immune protection from vaccines or other infections.
The best time to slow down or stop a surge is before it has begun. The second best time to stop or slow a surge would be right at the beginning of it. The surge’s 21st, or so, best time would be several more weeks later. Once the horse has left the barn, the cat has left the bag, the lemur has left the office, and the Timberlake has left the *NSYNC, it’s a lot more difficult to turn things around.
The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has posted this link to remind people to follow the following steps:
- “Wear a high-quality mask in all public indoor settings and around crowds outside.
- Stay current on vaccinations.
- You can test before and during travel, gatherings, or if someone you know has COVID-19.
- Stay home if sick.
- Wash your hands.”
However, the big question is whether people in NYC will take any of these recommendations seriously, especially when they aren’t currently required to do so. If this Covid-19 pandemic has proven one thing, it’s that many people do not do what they are recommended or asked to do. Many people will wait, wait, and wait until it is required. That’s why there are laws and requirements rather than recommendations to follow traffic regulations, to wear clothes in public, to use bathrooms instead of peeing or pooping just anywhere, and to pay for things in stores.
As evidenced by fake vaccination cards and the number noses you saw with the face mask requirements in place, it might not be enough to simply tell everyone they need to get vaccinated. Monitoring compliance must also be possible. This is why so many people still use swimming pools as giant toilet bowls. as I’ve covered for Forbes. An alert system’s purpose is to inform everyone about the circumstances under which certain requirements may be enforced, and how compliance might be monitored.
Based on the NYC Health website message, it’s unclear when a new NYC alert system will emerge or what it will look like. Without an alert system it is much harder to respond quickly and effectively to changes to the Covid-19 situation. Each type of emergency response must have an alert system to link the situation with action. For example, you can’t just tell someone on the beach to run for cover without first saying, “hey, it looks like your thong is about to snap.” This will help the person realize that you are trying to help rather than simply making fun of his or her outfit.
A system of alerts helps people to anticipate what they should do. Imagine what it would be like if your partner didn’t give you any warnings about how they would react in different situations. Instead of breaking up with you, OK, maybe that’s already happened to you. Regardless, it’s not a good situation to have. You’d probably prefer some kind of advances warning such as your significant other telling you in advance, “Your growing Justin Bieber statue collection is getting a bit out of hand. Do you have to put them in every room of the house? Ten more statues and I am leaving you.”
Website does not explain why this reevaluation occurs. Covid-19 transmission is high. Mandate Masks in NY, a NYC advocacy effort calling for, guess what, mask mandates, tweet-thread-wondered why face mask wearing requirements for indoor public locations haven’t been reinstituted:
The tweet-thread pointed out that the original NYC Covid Alert system unveiled in March had indicated that “high” risk levels would likely trigger face mask wearing requirements:
It is risky to completely change alert systems in the middle a pandemic. It is possible that people will not be able to take new alert systems seriously. Imagine if your teacher changed the grading system in the middle or if your significant other asked for cheating to be defined. You may be left wondering what the original systems or definitions were. A changing alert system may prompt people to ignore any new alert system, believing that it’s only a matter of time before yet another change comes around. That’s why consistency in an alert system is very important for people to take it seriously.
A strong alert system must be based on science, and not political considerations. Different special interests could believe they can easily change the alert system by simply lobbying the right people. Is it possible for your partner to cheat based on the actions of the night before?
Each alert level must be linked to a distinct set of actual actions. And these actions can’t be the same for different levels. You can’t have people thinking, “well it’s now high alert instead of medium alert, but we’ll just do the same thing.” In other words, it can’t just be a by-the-way or a FYI system. A clear set of progressive levels should be used in an alert system. Each jump should be linked to an increasing number of actual actions. Moving to a higher level should clearly signify something.
An effective system should remind everyone that we are still facing a pandemic, which is a public emergency. There are scientific reasons and science-backed ways to slow down the spread. The Covid-19 coronavirus isn’t just like a state of mind. It isn’t going to go away simply because everyone has decided to ignore it. As with any relationship, it is possible to prolong the process by not paying attention and taking the proper steps.