St. Louis County launches "COVID Ref" outreach campaign

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Public Health & Human Services Dept. • 320 West Second Street, Suite 605 • Duluth, MN 55802
Phone: (218) 726-2096 •

Linnea Mirsch



November 17, 2020

CONTACT: Dana Kazel, Communications Manager

218-725-5049 (office) • 218-591-2219 (cell)


St. Louis County launches "COVID Ref" public health outreach campaign

Throwing a yellow flag and calling penalties for face mask, illegal formation, false start and other football penalty metaphors; a new public education outreach campaign featuring the "COVID Ref" began running on local TV channels this week to raise awareness about COVID-19 safety tips. The COVID Ref campaign was produced by St. Louis County Public Health using CARES Act funds.


The campaign uses humor and a light hearted approach to teach important tips such as the proper way to wear a face mask, quarantine rules, and tips for safe gatherings. The COVID Ref character also is a bit of a coach, offering guidance on safer options, while also offering encouragement such as "it's only half time in this pandemic. Let's win this thing." The commercials can be viewed online at


"In this pandemic, we are all affected by the actions and decisions made by those around us, so it's important we make sure everyone knows what to do to slow the spread and protect themselves and those around them," said Dana Kazel, St. Louis County Communications Manager. "While COVID-19 is a very serious situation, we think taking a fun approach will be more effective at getting people's attention and will make the messaging more memorable."


The commercials feature all local actors, including Solomon Witherspoon as the COVID Ref. Duluth agency Creative Arcade created and directed the campaign, which includes the public service announcements and website, as well as additional videos that will be shared on social media. Plans are to expand the campaign into print and other media as additional funding is available. Danger Bird Productions filmed and edited the videos.


The website, features not only the videos - and a fun backstory on the COVID Ref - but also links to  the Minnesota Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control, and St. Louis County's COVID information page where people can learn additional, credible information on how best to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect themselves and those around them.



CoviD ref

Solomon Witherspoon is the "COVID Ref" in a new public education campaign for St. Louis County.