Michigan launches $5M in ads to urge masks to fight virus

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LANSING — Michigan on Monday launched a $5 million advertising campaign to urge people to wear a mask to fight the coronavirus with a focus on appealing to those who believe the state’s requirement infringes on their rights.

The “spread hope, not COVID” message includes three public service announcements. Two feature military members saying they wear a face covering to protect their freedom and the freedom of others, saying it can reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 by 70%. A sergeant shown in both ads puts on a mask showing the American flag.

“The more we wear masks, the sooner this is going to end, the sooner we can return to normal. Whether we wear masks is going to have a direct effect,” Robert Gordon, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said in an interview. “We want to speak to folks who are skeptical in a way that’s respectful, that honors their perspective and says, ‘Yes, freedom’s important. But wearing masks protects freedom and gets us close to the day when this is over.'”

The ads are based on a survey of about 2,000 residents and are being funded with federal virus relief aid.

The goal, Gordon said, is to “reinforce in a hopeful way” the importance of social distancing and wearing a face covering even if it is a burden. The ad campaign is separate from one, known as “Rona,” that targets young adults and is funded primarily by businesses.

“This campaign is geared toward all Michiganders,” he said.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order requires face coverings in enclosed public spaces and crowded outdoor places where distancing cannot be consistently maintained. Masks also are mandated in many organized sports.

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