A group of community leaders is hoping to educate the public about measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through an information campaign.
At the city of Grand Island’s biweekly press conference Thursday morning, Karen Rathke, president and chief professional officer of the Heartland United Way, said that on March 16, her organization convened a community COVID-19 response team that brought together community leaders, organizations and healthcare and business representatives.
“They share updates about the impact of COVID-19 on the business clientele and individuals they serve,” she said. “We also coordinate efforts to meet community needs and to keep everyone informed.”
Rathke said the group has a Facebook page “COVID-19 Hall County Response,” which provides information on how to get help, as well as how to give help.
“The Grand Island area is fortunate to have dedicated, compassionate people who are responding to the call to help in so many ways and on so many levels,” she said. “We are all working hard to do what we can to help, but we are concerned. The number of positive cases and deaths continue to rise. We felt we needed to do something more to keep people safe.”
A communication committee stemmed from the United Way’s weekly meetings that continue to be held weekly on Tuesdays.
Jack Sheard, marketing and communication coordinator for Grand Island Public Schools, volunteered to lead the committee of community leaders and marketing experts to develop more robust, coordinated communications strategies to combat COVID-19.
“My favorite quote is, ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today,’” Sheard said.
“Yes, we should have, and maybe could have, done more two months ago. We cannot go back, so let’s start getting messages out now. Let’s save lives.”
Rathke said an “incredible group of people with creative talents” joined forces with media partners to develop a public call to action for people to understand that COVID-19 is real and needs to be treated as such.
The committee’s focus is on safety messages including the importance of wearing a mask in public, shopping once weekly, shopping without friends and family members, keeping 6 feet of distance in public and staying home if possible.
Secondary efforts include information sharing about community resources, mental health and creating social pressure to comply with safety guidelines.
At the press conference Thursday, Julie Wright, creative director at Tally Creative, showed some custom graphics the committee has made that people can share on their personal and/or business social media pages using the hashtags: #DoYourPartGI #HazTuParteGI #ThisIsRealGI #EstoEsRealGI.
The campaign shows images highlighting the importance of wearing masks in public.
“With these custom graphics, we wanted to create a message that was strictly for Grand Island,” Wright said. “These hashtags and images will be spread online, on billboards and on marquees. We would also encourage you to download and share these graphics on your personal and business (social media) pages.”
Multicultural Coalition Executive Director Audrey Lutz said it is important to share these messages with all community members, including those whose first language is not English.
“The novel coronavirus does not discriminate based on race, ethnicity or country of origin,” she said. “We advocate for multilingual messages to get information out to the entire community, not because it is spread more prevalently or any differently by people of color.”
Wright also shared a video of her daughter, made as part of her e-learning that showed how to make a mask and the proper way to wear it.
Rathke said the video and the link to the creative graphics are available at the Heartland United Way’s website, www.heartlandunitedway.org.