It was the day before Thanksgiving when Brian Stone, of Tilghman, Md., Heard the alarm on his phone: the booming buzz telling people to look for missing children or evacuate their homes to escape an advancing wildfire .

That warning was different, however: it told him to wear a face mask and expect stricter enforcement of coronavirus health instructions.

Mr. Stone then turned off the messaging system.

“You get that beep, that electronic sound, and you think it’s something important, and it’s just, ‘Wear a mask and be safe,” “said Mr. Stone, whose wife Ellen sent a letter to The Baltimore Sun about the emergency wrote attentively. “It wasn’t an emergency.”

Ed McDonough, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, said, “We have tried to be very careful with our use.” Mr McDonough said officials believed that with families gathering for Thanksgiving, it was important to remind them to be as safe as possible.

State and local officials are turning to the wireless emergency alert system to alert residents of rising case numbers and other public health issues related to the virus. The model enables law enforcement agencies and other public agencies to warn residents with geographic news, usually in bad weather or when a child has been abducted.

In Los Angeles, officials used the system to notify residents that virus testing centers are extending their hours before the holidays.

On Monday, Rhode Island issued a warning to warn residents that the hospitals were full. And in Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf said in a press release last week that the state would use the warnings to target certain areas of the state with high case numbers.

While emergency alerts provide an easy way to send critical information to residents, the system can also overwhelm people with messages, creating a “boy who wolf wolf” effect that can cause people like Mr. Stone to dodge System become disaffected.

Mr Wolf said the warnings were “another way to reach as many Pennsylvanians as possible to provide timely information about Covid-19.”

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