Oakland County Launches Public Education Campaign to Reinforce Safety Guidelines and Control COVID-19 Spread Until Vaccine is Available

Oakland County leaders today launched an updated public education campaign to encourage residents to remain vigilant about following health and safety measures that control the spread of COVID-19 as they wait for a vaccine to arrive.

The goal of the effort, entitled “The Only Way To Beat It Is To Face It,” is to spread a message of hope amid the recent virus surge while highlighting the importance of continuing to follow guidelines to help keep fellow residents healthy and save lives, said Oakland County Executive David Coulter.

“Hope is on the horizon with a vaccine but until then it is only our actions that keep us safe, slow the spread of the virus, protect our health care workers and keep people alive,” Coulter said. “We’re all in this together, and the campaign strives to rally everyone behind the practical steps we must continue to take.”

Oakland County Health Officer Leigh-Anne Stafford reinforced that message during a news conference today where the campaign was unveiled.

“There is certainly cause for optimism in terms of vaccine development, but as we wait for inoculations to become available, we can’t afford to let our guard down,” she said. “We understand that continuing to socially distance, avoid large gatherings and follow other safety guidelines is not always easy and certainly not enjoyable, but the situation is not permanent, and we urge everyone to remain patient and stay focused on following health protocols. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do because it will save lives.”

Oakland County Commissioner Michael Spisz, R-Oxford Twp., who recently recovered from a bout with COVID-19, noted that the focus of the new public education campaign isn’t on enforcing safety measures but rather on encouraging behavior that will help limit transmission of COVID-19 and boost the local economy.

“As a county commissioner, one of my duties is to help keep people safe, and I’m calling on all local leaders – including those in the business and faith communities – to model best behavior and encourage those they serve and interact with to do likewise,” he said, adding that slowing the spread of the coronavirus now will help speed economic recovery once it is under control.

Former Detroit Lions great Lomas Brown Jr. will serve as one of the spokespeople for the campaign.

“It’s not every day that you get to be part of something that will literally save lives, and I’m honored to lend my voice to this effort,” said Brown, who now serves as an analyst for radio broadcasts of Lions games. “Just like in football, the battle against COVID requires teamwork. We all have to do our part and rally around the cause of keeping everyone in our community – including our most vulnerable residents – as safe as possible until we beat this virus.”

Also during today’s news conference, Kelly Miller told her story of working on the front lines during the pandemic as a clinical nurse specialist at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland hospital in Pontiac.

“I’ve seen both displays of remarkable courage and scenes of devastating heartbreak during the past several months,” she said. “My sincerest wish for the holiday season and into the new year is for Oakland County residents to stay safe so that they and their loved ones will have many more joyful holidays together.”

“The Only Way To Beat It Is To Face It” is funded by a federal CARES Act grant. The initiative’s name is meant to reinforce the practicality of wearing a mask to protect yourself and others, acknowledge the dangers that we face in the coming weeks and highlight the necessity of embracing public health measures to help eventually overcome the pandemic.

In addition to Brown’s efforts, the campaign will feature public service announcements by other local celebrities and influencers that encourage county residents to do their part to limit COVID-19 transmission by following health and safety protocols that, beyond wearing masks in public, include frequent hand-washing, socially distancing and limiting gatherings with those from other households.

“These are all messages that the public has heard before, but they bear repeating because we know the measures are effective,” Stafford said. “We’ve made it this far, and we just need to tough it out and follow safety protocols for hopefully just a while longer.”

The effort also encourages residents to remain engaged in the community by supporting local businesses while staying focused on safety.

For instance, Coulter said, in-store shoppers can mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a face covering, washing hands regularly and maintaining a safe social distance. Customers may also want to consider pursuing outdoor deliveries via curbside pickup, ordering online, shopping in-store before and after peak hours, and calling stores beforehand to ask if a clerk will video chat with them.

Coulter also encouraged residents to order takeout from area restaurants.

Oakland County is launching the public education campaign as COVID-19 cases surge nationally, statewide, and locally.

From Nov. 1-28 alone, the county saw 17,862 new confirmed coronavirus cases, which is nearly 45% of the entire caseload that has been recorded countywide since the Oakland County Health Division began compiling pandemic statistics in March.

“We’re certainly not where we need to be right now, but we’ve flattened the curve and slowed the spread of the virus before and we can do it again,” Stafford said. “There is light at the end of the tunnel as vaccines move closer to gaining regulatory approval, which should give us all even more incentive to comply with short-term health and safety recommendations.”