Local officials stood beside the presidents of local colleges and universities on Thursday to announce a three-month campaign aimed at encouraging students to wear face mask amid rising COVID-19 cases in Utah County young adults.
The campaign is called “Join the Maskerade” and kicked off with a press conference at the Provo City Library. The goal of the campaign is to get 5,000 people to sign a pledge committing to wear a mask and social distance.
The Utah Department of Health announced on Sept. 22 that Provo and Orem would move from the yellow (low risk) phase to orange (moderate risk) phase in response to the area’s rise in COVID-19 cases. In a recent statement, Utah State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn pointed to the college-aged young adults as the driving force behind the surge of cases.
Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi said in order to solve this problem of increasing COVID-19 cases in the area and encourage students to wear face masks, she teamed up with BYU’s Y Digital student-run marketing agency to create “Join the Maskerade.”
“Only their peers who understand what ‘college in the time of COVID’ is like can convincingly speak and hopefully change behavior so that normalcy can be preserved as much as possible,” Kaufusi said in a statement.
The campaign is funded by $100,000 from federal COVID-19 funds the Provo City Council dedicated for an education campaign about face masks and COVID-19.
A student from Rocky Mountain University, Asha Byrd, described “Join the Maskerade” as an interactive digital marketing campaign, using social media and weekly giveaways to encourage students to sign the pledge. She said the campaign would soon be rolling out new content and videos to spread the word about the importance of wearing masks.
UVU President Astrid S. Tuminez said she is hopeful this campaign will lead to a change in behavior among students, but she also feels somber because of the cavalier attitudes and politicization of COVID-19 that has brought the community to this point.
“We do have compassion here (in Utah County). We do have reason here. We do have kindness here,” Tuminez said. “So now we have to express that care through a very practical, thoughtful decision to wear a mask, which is a slight burden but not a big burden.”
BYU President Kevin J Worthen said he is also optimistic for the future, especially as he has seen the rate of new cases on campus go down over the last few days.
“We’re hoping that trend continues. And then hopefully the same in the rest of the community,” Worthen said.
Some students from colleges and universities in Utah County spoke about why this campaign and encouraging their classmates to wear masks was important to them.
“If we want to continue our education, to be face-to-face, we need to wear masks,” UVU student Lucy Watson said. “And if we want to keep our community open, we need to respect the health of others. Even if you’re not at a health risk yourself, there are others around you that are.”