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Not sure if you want to go through the hassle of finding out whether you may be the next victim of a deadly global pandemic? Well, maybe a Big Mac could change your mind!

Residents of Louisiana’s capital city were presented with a rather unusual incentive this week. The first 500 people who showed up for a COVID-19 test at a Baton Rouge testing site were offered a coupon for a McDonald’s value meal.

So come on down and let us stick a swab up your nose – hope you don’t have the virus, but if you do, well, at least lunch is on us!

A local franchisee that owns more than 40 McDonald’s restaurants in the area says it offered the deal to help encourage people to get a free coronavirus test. The Louisiana Health Department praised the restaurant owner’s generous offer. But reaction among local residents was, you could say, not exactly what local health officials or McDonald’s expected.

“Nothing says we care about your health better than using a Happy Meal to entice us to get tested,” a commenter wrote on the Health Department’s Facebook page. “I fully support all necessary testing but this is stupid,” another wrote. “I feel like I’m either living in the Twilight Zone or the end times,” a third commenter added.

In all, hundreds weighed in on the Health Department’s page, the vast majority of whom weren’t impressed by the offer. Most pointed out the inconsistency of a health department promoting unhealthy food. “Sure, come get tested so we can lower your immune system with some great American fast food!” one person commented. “When the leading preexisting condition of death by COVID-19 is obesity, you would think the Department of Health would know better,” another wrote. “I know you could have found a better partner for this incentive offering. Local produce stands for fruit giveaways, local grocers for grocery vouchers, local fitness facilities for membership giveaways, just to name a few,” a commenter suggested.

Of course, the McDonald’s franchisee’s offer may not have been entirely altruistic. About 85% of the nearly 14,000 McDonald’s locations in the U.S. – including all of the locations in Baton Rouge – remain closed to dine-in customers. So they’re all having to make do with delivery, drive-through and takeout orders. And what better way to get a little more business than to hand out coupons to 500 people, who may buy some food for friends or family while they’re there?

Some commenters said that’s not exactly a wise idea. “Why would you give someone who is potentially sick a voucher to go get food from a place of business? That is literally asking for trouble,” one wondered. “Could you imagine being the drive-through window cashier of the closest McDonald’s… wondering how many ill people handed you their coupons?” another commented. “Yes, please get tested then go spread it at McDonald’s before getting results,” another commenter wrote. “I see why we’re ranked the lowest in education,” another added.

Others are crying conspiracy, and sensing something nefarious behind the offer. “Trying to get those positive numbers up any way they can!” one surmised. “Let’s feed ’em McDonald’s nuggets and keep them home another year!” another wrote. “Actually,” one dissenter offered, “by offering the free coupons, they are encouraging more people to come out and test who would probably trend negative… thereby creating the false impression that we were in a better position and not a worse one.” Either way, one critic wrote, “the more they test, the more federal money the state gets to pocket!”

Very few people who’ve weighed in on the Department of Health’s Facebook page are praising the giveaway. But some are. “They’re trying to get people to come out and will do anything to get it done… People need to get tested,” one supporter offered. But most are far from convinced. “Do you realize how many people will just go get tested for no reason just so they can get a free meal?” another wrote. “There’s no need to offer an incentive to get tested. If you’re sick, get tested. Don’t go to get a free coupon.”

According to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, among U.S. states, Louisiana is currently ranked just behind New York and New Jersey in the number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. Baton Rouge’s numbers are slightly lower than the statewide average right now. But that could change, thanks to a fast food coupon – for better or for worse.

One Comment

  1. I feel this is not right. Let me know which McDonalds they go to.

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