Hattiesburg, Mississippi – On Monday morning, business and health care leaders – Bernard Green with GlobalGreen Insurance; Hoppy Cole with The First, A National Banking Association; Abb Payne with Payne Companies; Todd Jackson with The ADP; Traci Rouse with Merit Health Wesley and Dr. Rambod Rouhbakhsh with Forrest General and Hattiesburg Clinic – joined Mayor Toby Barker to launch a comprehensive advertising campaign encouraging citizens to “mask up.”
The campaign – Mask Up, HBURG – is spearheaded by the private business sector and shared in partnership by local entities across several industries – tourism, education, health care and government.
Green opened the press conference by stating, “This campaign is us doing our part, and we’re calling all community leaders to mask up and set the example. In our roles across a variety of industries, we understand the altruistic view for how we approach this pandemic and that wearing a mask is a small personal sacrifice for the greater good of our larger community.”
Cole who serves as the CEO for The First Bank added that they adopted wearing masks (at all banking locations across 5 states) very early and attributes its use to low workforce infection numbers. “With 800 employees, we’ve had very few cases. This has allowed us to continue conducting business – while minimizing risk to our employees, their families and our customers. It’s not a big ask and we should all mask up – as it’s a proven tool for us to use during this time.
Payne, whose role with Payne Companies includes traveling all across the country, also added, “Throughout this pandemic, I’ve watched wearing a mask become normalized behavior – from California and Utah to North Carolina. Adopting a campaign sharing the importance for doing it here just makes sense, ” said Payne. “We have to be in this together because you never know who you are standing next to. Yesterday, I was standing next to a cancer patient – and I would have never known that had we not engaged in conversation.”
With “Mask Up, HBURG,” the campaign aims to engage citizens through a quick call to action and to also serve as an educational platform for how/why wearing a mask can help slow the spread of COVID-19. During the press conference, The ADP’s Jackson revealed several slides that included artwork that covers both the call to action and mask education.
“As a call to action to all of us in the business sector and to those who call Hattiesburg home, this campaign will tie itself to the statewide initiative ‘Mask up, Mississippi.’ said Jackson. “We believe this provides consistency to the messages our citizens are hearing. We have an opportunity to do better by our neighbors, and all of us here at The ADP will choose to mask up for them.”
Representatives from Merit Health Wesley, Forrest General and Hattiesburg Clinic were also included in the panel to discuss the importance of wearing masks and how doing so impacts the Pine Belt’s health care system.
Rouse, who serves as vice president of Marketing at Merith Health Wesley stated, “From the health care perspective, we want the community to know we are here for them and that we’ll continue to be here when they need us. But, we need their help. So the ask is simple – will you help us by choosing to mask up?”
Rouhbasksh, principal investigator for Hattiesburg Clinic MediSync® Clinical Research and associate program director at the Forrest General Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program also added:
“We’ve had some misses when it comes to battling this pandemic, but we’ve learned a lot. And the one thing we’re most confident about is that appropriate mask usage helps mitigate the risk of this disease. If our community normalizes this behavior and if it becomes a part of what we do, I truly feel this is our best chance of getting out of this pandemic in a reasonable manner.”
Mayor Barker closed the press conference by stating, “The strength in our city is not in who sits at city hall or who serves on the City Council or Board of Supervisors. The strength of our city is in the diversity, creativity and resiliency of our community – and that starts with those who own businesses and preside over our health care institutions. These are our cornerstones of what makes Hattiesburg a premier city, and I appreciate all of our community leaders who are stepping up and lending their voice and influence to support such a small, but impactful behavior.”
Visually, “Mask Up, HBURG” messaging will be seen throughout the community by way of outdoor billboards, PSAs that will run on local news outlets, digital engagement opportunities through social media platforms and more.
Shareable graphics, educational information and more can be accessed via the campaign website, housed at maskuphburg.com.
About Mask Up, Hattiesburg: The “Mask Up, Hattiesburg” campaign is supported by the City of Hattiesburg, the City’s community working group in response to COVID-19 and several partners, including but not limited to: Forrest General Hospital, Merit Health Wesley, Hattiesburg Clinic, Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative, The Area Development Partnership, United Way of Southeast Mississippi, VisitHATTIESBURG, The University of Southern Mississippi, William Carey University and Pearl River Community College.
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