Genesee County lawmakers are being asked to consider spending $15,000 as part of a regional media blitz aimed at persuading the “vaccine hesitant” and others to protect themselves against COVID-19.
County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, County Manager Matt Landers and Public Health Director Paul Pettit are part of a weekly conference call with representatives of the seven other counties in the Finger Lakes Region.
Over the course of recent discussions, the participants have reached a consensus to contract with Rochester-based Causewave Community Partners and Common Ground Health through the end of the year on a media campaign targeting rural counties such as Genesee.
The full cost of the initiative – which would include television ads, radio spots, direct mailing and social media announcements – is $150,000. Genesee’s cost, based on population, is around $15,000, Landers said at today’s Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse.
The campaign is being coordinated by Chris DeBolt, Ontario County administrator.
“One of the things that we really liked about (the companies’ presentation) is that the focus is, one, that they're not going after the never-evers,” Landers explained. “They understand where people are and they’re not going to try to change set minds.”
Instead, he said, the goal “is to help people that are vaccine hesitant …to help reinforce people that have already gotten the vaccine to get the booster and to focus on masking -- good defenses that are out there for COVID.”
Another important aspect is that the focus will be on rural counties, Landers advised.
“Monroe County would not be participating in this, which is good, because they have a different challenge and different dilemma than the rest of the counties that surround Monroe County,” he said.
Landers said ideas include enlisting a local doctor to answer questions from a community resident – “30-second bites tailored toward our communities,” he noted – and direct mail that would target hard to reach zip codes and hard to reach populations, in general, such as Mennonite, Amish or Native American.
He said he sees the $15,000 as a relatively small amount that enables the county “to leverage a company that is going to have some uniform messaging throughout the region to similar counties.”
“And I think it's a good step given the direction that we are going with the pandemic.”
Ways & Means Chair Marianne Clattenburg pointed out that the cost breaks down to 26 cents per resident.
Stein agreed that the county could get a lot of bang for the buck.
“I know we can’t do a postcard mailing for that by ourselves,” she said. “And that is really inexpensive and, at the same time, everything is going to be focused towards a rural population, not an urban -- and the unvaccinated zip codes are also really going to be called in on and that information is available through the Finger Lakes Hub.”
She said project is another way “to get our message out … to help us stay healthy and to understand how critical it is that everybody plays a role in getting our health back under control and to help us use the tools that we have this time around with an outbreak.”
Landers said the fee is a one-time cost but is leaving the door open – upon approval by the legislature – to conduct a longer campaign. He said he plans to introduce a resolution that would be voted on at next Wednesday’s legislature meeting.