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Health District Says It Needs To Improve Messaging To Young Adults

Spokane Regional Health District

Another day, another big batch of Covid cases in Spokane.

The health district reported 91 new cases on Monday, on top of 85 on Saturday, 61 on Sunday and 133 on Friday.

Many of the people infected are in the 20-to-40 age range. You can conclude, therefore, that the health district’s message of "wear a mask" and "don’t gather in large groups" isn’t working.

Health officials are trying to find a better way to market to young adults.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, Health Officer Bob Lutz has been the man in the spotlight. He has delivered bad news and good, and for awhile, he got results. By late May the Covid curve had flattened enough that Spokane County could advance to level two in the state’s reopening strategy.

But since Memorial Day, the number of cases has jumped dramatically and Lutz realizes many people, especially young adults, have tuned him out.

“My messaging isn’t working and I think, collectively, our messaging across the state is not working. That population is driving our outbreak, is making things worse," he said.

Lutz communicates with the public twice weekly through Facebook Live and Zoom calls, but he knows that isn’t going to work with everyone.

“You know, obviously, young people, they’re following different media streams than Facebook Live. They think it’s for their parents, apparently," he said.

Lutz and his team are looking for new ways to reach younger people. And they’re challenged because the pandemic conditions change so quickly. Communicator Kelli Hawkins says the health district hasn’t had time to develop and test a communications strategy.

“I could put out a message that would have the opposite effect. That’s why I really want to make sure that we do share is a good message that resonates with them and they take seriously," Hawkins said.

She says the health district has reached out to teenagers and to young adults in their 20s and 30s to see what might work. But getting the message to the right places isn’t always easy.

“We’re also a government agency so we’re a little bit challenged, when you talk about TikTok, we have to be careful about platforms we’re using for security reasons," she said.

Hawkins says the county expects to have some new messaging ready in the next few weeks.