It’s all-virus-all-the-time for some if not most communicators and audiences. Still, other important messages need to get through, despite the virus-related information overload.
For example, the US Census Bureau must communicate the need for Americans take part in the decade's first census, Census 2020. While the Bureau won’t have workers knocking on doors for a while, it has pivoted quickly. TV and radio ads for Census 2020 mention coronavirus as they urge Americans to fill out census forms online or by mail. In addition, the Bureau is sending text messages and email to Americans with the same ask.
The messaging is working. As of March 31, 35 percent of US households, about 50 million, have responded to the census. This means the self-reporting portion of the Census is roughly on track. The Bureau eventually hopes to hire and send staff into the field, virus permitting. They'd concentrate on what history show are the most difficult groups to count: English as a second language speakers, black men 18-29 and children younger than 5.
Battling Messages: Regular readers of PRNEWS’ coronavirus coverage have seen numerous references to the importance of consistent messaging during a health crisis. They also know we’ve railed against the inconsistent messaging from the White House that Americans are asked to decipher.
For example, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House virus task force’s most popular scientist, has been unambiguous in his insistence that distancing and shut-downs are effective in mitigating coronavirus’ spread. Asked April 2 about a nationwide shut-down, Fauci told CNN: "I just don't understand why we're not doing that. We really should be."
Still, the president refuses to urge the 9 states that are not shut to do so. A shut-down is a choice each state must make, the president said during the Saturday (April 4) briefing. He added, the 9 states are “not in jeopardy” from coronavirus.
In fact, though, there are at least 100 cases of the virus in each of the 9 states, according to CNN.
On Monday, April 6, Missouri will officially shut down. The remaining 8 are: South Carolina, Utah, Iowa, Arkansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas and Wyoming.
Mask Communication: To mask or not to mask is one of the virus's longest-running ambiguous messages. Initially, the federal government urged Americans not to wear masks. For the past two weeks, though, media reported that the CDC was reconsidering.
Late today, the CDC communicated. It recommended, but did not require, Americans cover their faces with cloth while in public places, such as markets and pharmacies. To be clear, the cloth coverings are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. “Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders,” CDC said.
Confusing the message a bit more, the president told the nation during the Saturday (April 4) briefing he’s chosen not to wear a mask or a cloth covering his nose and mouth. “It’s [only] a recommendation,” he said.
First Lady Melania Trump tweeted April 3 in favor of masks/face coverings (see below).
As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously. #COVID19 is a virus that can spread to anyone - we can stop this together.
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) April 3, 2020
The Doctor is In: Another theme emphasized in our coverage is the need for brand communicators to stay in their lane. For example, avoid providing health recommendations unless you’re a medical brand and you have doctors and scientists who can back-up your recommendations with facts.
The president has some of the world’s top scientific minds on his White House coronavirus task force. Still, the president insists on dispensing medical information.
For example, during Saturday’s briefing, Trump, with Dr. Fauci nearby, said of the drug hydroxychloroquine, “What do you have to lose? Take it…I really think [patients] should take it. But it’s their choice. And it’s their doctor’s choice or the doctors in the hospital. But hydroxychloroquine. Try it, if you’d like.”
Adding to the confusion, Dr. Fauci has said repeatedly that he needs more data about hydroxychloroquine before he will render a judgement about its effectiveness fighting or preventing COVID-19.
Bunny Business: The president mentioned during the briefing April 4 that the coming week would be a very bad one for deaths from COVID-19, the sickness resulting from coronavirus.
On the other hand, Trump also said he'd like his team to consider how Easter services could take place next Sunday, April 12. Easter services, he said, might be held outdoors in a large space, presumably allowing people to practice "great separation...It’s something we should talk about.”
The president spoke last month of wanting to have the country back to business by Easter. He later amended those remarks, saying they were "aspirational."
This article is part of PRNEWS' daily COVID-19 coverage, click here to see the latest updates.