State launches new ad campaign to encourage mask usage, social distancing
The state health department Monday launched a $5 million public education campaign encouraging people to wear masks, social distance, wash their hands and get tested for the virus.
The “Spread Hope, Not COVID” campaign is funded with federal CARES Act dollars and will push public service announcements on television, social media, outdoor billboards and digital media.
The campaign is separate from the multimillion-dollar “Rona for Real” public awareness campaign launched in August by a business-backed group to educate people 18-29 years old on the risks of COVID-19.
The state’s campaign aims to reach a broader audience and focuses on ways to manage risk when in public. It builds on the executive orders Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued and earlier messaging from the Department of Health and Human Services, such as the agency's “MI Mask Challenge” and “Mask Up Michigan.”
“After six months of COVID, we all experience the challenge and the fatigue of not leading our normal lives and wearing our masks,” HHS Director Robert Gordon said.
"It can be tiring, but we also know that if we do the right thing, if we wear masks, if we socially distance, we’re going to reduce the number of cases, we’re going to save lives and we’re going to bring closer the day when this is over," he said.
A state survey in July found that about three-quarters of Michigan residents wear masks in public. The survey also found Black individuals, women and people in Metro Detroit were more likely to use masks.
Gordon noted that African Americans in Michigan were disproportionately hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and virus cases and deaths in Metro Detroit were higher than any outstate county.
As of Saturday, the state had confirmed 111,524 cases and 6,591 deaths related to COVID-19. Individuals in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties made up 74% of confirmed COVID-19 related deaths statewide and 54% of coronavirus cases.
But the campaign doesn’t zero in on any one demographic or geographic region with the new education campaign, Gordon said.
“We’re trying to reach people of all ages,” Gordon said. “We built part of the campaign around reaching people who don’t like masks because they think the masks infringe on their freedom, and maybe they think the governor’s orders infringe on their freedoms.”
At least two of the television ads that will be aired feature veterans who speak about the idea of wearing masks to protect and return to everyday liberties soon, Gordon said. In one ad, a former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant identified as William speaks about the importance of mask use before pulling on an American flag mask.
"To regain my freedom and to protect yours, I choose to wear a mask," the veteran says. "For your community and country, spread hope, not COVID.”
Another ad couches the pandemic as an “intermission” and features images of an empty performance venue, a crowd-less Ford Field, an closed-up restaurant and empty school hallway.
“Hope is setting the stage for our comeback, when each of life’s victories is a little sweeter,” the ad says. “We will celebrate how far we’ve come, marvel at our strength and learn that all we did, Michigan, we did for each other.”
The state will continue to research mask use, social distancing and hand washing through surveys to identify misinformation and assess the effectiveness of campaigns like the “Spread hope, Not COVID” effort, Gordon said.