Utah health officials warns college students to avoid ‘the Rona’

(Courtesy of the Utah Department of Health) UDOH has launched a public awareness campaign aimed at 15- to 24-year olds.

With COVID-19 cases spiking among teens and young adults, Utah is responding with a public awareness campaign aimed at 15 to 24 year olds.

Armed with the hashtags #ronalert and #avoidtherona, the campaign is running on social media and digital platforms. and on college campuses across the state — with an emphasis on Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University.

“Certainly, with the increase in cases in Utah County and the majority of those being among college age and some high school students, that was definitely our line of thinking,” said Jenny Johnson, a spokesperson with the Utah Department of Health.

The decision was made about 10 days ago to reach out to young adults, and, after some “really quick, very informal” interviews and focus groups, the campaign tries to speak to them by calling COVID-19 “the Rona”:

“You’re so over it. No more classes from home. No more Zoom links. No more social life from a phone in your bedroom. But if you wanna stay at school, you gotta avoid the Rona! Don’t get careless now,” the campaign cautions.

(Courtesy of the Utah Department of Health) UDOH has launched a public awareness campaign aimed at 15- to 24-year olds.

“That’s how they refer to it,” Johnson said. “That’s how we came up with the ‘Ronalert’ tagline.”

According to the state, the recent spike in cases — the state set a record on Thursday with 1,198 — is being driven in large part by the 15-24 demographic. That group now makes up 27% of the total cases in Utah, and has the highest rate with 80 cases per 100,000 of any demographic. That’s nearly twice the rate of the second-highest demographic, people ages 25-44.

“The emphasis was definitely the spike,” Johnson said. “No more just talk about doing this — we’re doing this.”

The Health Department worked with the Penna Powers Agency — which has been working on the overall state campaign — and put together the young adult campaign in about a week. It’s aimed primarily at college students, “to help them understand that their behaviors are going to have an impact on their ability to stay on campus and experience campus life,” Johnson said. “The secondary audience is those older high school students that we can also reach through the same platforms and messaging.”

The campaign’s website tells young people “If you want to stay at school, avoid the Rona” by wearing face masks, washing hands, physical distancing and staying home if you feel sick. There’s also specific information about staying safe in apartments, dorms, dining halls and cafeterias, and how to use laundry rooms safely.

And to “be careful out there” because “My friend told me about this guy who heard from a girl who said some other girl had to go into quarantine because she made out with a rando guy who had the Rona.”

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