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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Hamilton County Looks To Amplify Safety Messages As COVID Cases Remain High

walgreens coronavirus
Bill Rinehart
Signs on the door of a Walgreens in downtown Cincinnati encourage mask wearing and social distancing.

Hamilton County is looking at ways to boost messaging about COVID-19 precautions as infection numbers remain high. "We know from our data that we have to have consistent messaging," says county Communications Manager Bridget Doherty. "Messaging that's timely and data-driven in order to combat some messages that might be misleading that are already out there in the public."

Commission Vice President Stephanie Summerow Dumas wants to amplify and diversify what's already being done by investing in informative commercials and robocalls.

"A couple of those commercials could tell you what it looks like if you don't do what you need to do at Thanksgiving or Christmas or Hanukah or Kwanza," she says. "We're not trying to scare anybody but (show) the reality of what happens if you don't do what we've said."

She calls it flipping the script on the standard messages encouraging masking, hand washing, and social distancing. The county could decide to allocate some of its remaining CARES Act funding toward this project.

Emergency Management & Homeland Security Agency Director Nick Crossley suggests robocalls are less effective now. Instead, he recommends the county reach out to individual communities through the neighborhood website/app Nextdoor.

Marketing campaigns around safe business practices and community driven solutions are also about to launch from places like the health department and the convention and visitors bureau. The county is partnering with the regional chamber and others to talk about safe business practices.

"We're going to be promoting the resumption of safe activities," says Doherty. "I think one story that hasn't been told as much, or we could tell a lot more, is all the wonderful things that our business community has been doing to keep their employees and their patrons safe. We wanted to get the word out there that you can have a safe experience in Hamilton County."

The county is also launching a podcast with COVID-19 information.

The board and administration acknowledged that some people will simply refuse to wear masks, regardless of how many times they hear the message.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.