Dr. Elise Lowe, a lead hospitalist at Cody Regional Health, wanted more people to wear face masks.
She came up with Mask Up Park County, a media campaign including educational announcements spun with serious and humorous themes, and lottery contests meant to incentivize and promote the wearing of face masks.
“We’ve just had a lot of positive support,” said Lowe, “which was very reassuring and pretty inspiring.”
Lowe said Mask Up’s mission is of economic importance, “as a means to protect vulnerable people but also to keep businesses open.”
Many have argued for the need to reduce restrictions out of economic need as the summer wanes. In contrast, it is Lowe’s perspective that the economy will improve once the virus recedes. She also asserts employees wearing face masks protects against customer vulnerability.
“Our general vision is that healthy people create healthy economies,” Lowe said, “creating a safe environment for customers to go out and stimulate the economy.”
Lowe said the impact to a business with one infected employee can be minimized if everyone is wearing masks.
“That protection is what allows us to open businesses,” she said.
Jen Talich said her State Farm Insurance staff have been wearing masks consistently since July. For her, it’s not a political statement or a way of seeking confrontation, but rather, simply a way to contribute to the overall health of the community.
“I just want us to get back to normal,” she said.
The Mask Up media campaign has taken place mostly on social media but also on local billboards.
In early August, Mask Up posted photos of buffalo and bear sculptures around town wearing custom, hand-sewn face masks made by retired pathologist Dr. Pamela Clegg. They’ve also created messaging that taps into pieces of the local culture, making references to bow hunting, rodeo and ice fishing.
One of the PSAs shows a bow hunter crouching in a shooting position, with the words, “Preventing diseases is like bowhunting without smelling like deer urine. Wyoming wears masks!”
“I think some of their tactics there have been clever,” said Park County Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin, “and are designed to match the politics of the county.”
Mask Up is entering local businesses that post a photo of their staff wearing masks into a $1,000 cash drawing. Part of the purpose of the lottery is to promote businesses who are engaging in mask wearing, as participants have their photo posted to the Mask Up Facebook.
The Mask Up movement grew legs, Lowe said, once receiving funding for this contest from the Piazza Family Foundation, which is also committing to giving monthly $1,000 Chamber Bucks awards to one worker and or a patron that wears masks at public events and indoor settings.
Mask Up also plans to run smaller ongoing contests, like rewarding people it sees wearing masks in public with Cody Bucks – a local gift certificate program that can be redeemed with any Cody merchant.
Three individuals were recently awarded $50 each for wearing masks at Cody Nite Rodeo.
“There has been so much politics and negativity surrounding masks and the virus in general that we wanted to do something to provide a positive stimulus to people who are doing their part and looking out for their fellow man,” Nick Piazza wrote in a Facebook post.
About 25 businesses have participated in the lottery drawing so far.
“It was very awesome to see their response,” Lowe said.
Brooke Conners of the Advanced Veterinary Care Center said her office is only accepting pets via curbside drop-off, and their staff have been wearing masks since the start of the pandemic.
“It makes most of the clients feel comfortable,” said Conners.
Advanced Veterinary has posted multiple masked photos to the Mask Up page.
Another participant in Mask Up has been Meghan Gaspers of Firefly Yoga and Wellness. She posted photos of masked yoga students making various poses – including headstands – while wearing masks.
MUPC is sponsored by the Cody and Powell chambers of commerce, CRH, Sound Physicians and Lamar Advertising.
Although Lowe works at CRH, she is considered a Sound Physicians employee. Mask Up is not a campaign being run by either of these two organizations.