Better than a message from our sponsors …

My city has been producing an evolving series of PSAs starring the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. And now, the Deputy Commissioner as well. They’re all about Covid and how to protect and care for ourselves and others, how to take on this fight together as one big family in this city.

When I first started seeing the PSAs a couple of months ago (interrupting my very important binge-watching on ParamountPlus), I thought they were silly. Did I really need messages from the amiable and nerdy, soft-spoken Dr. Chokshi? Turns out, yes. Yes, I did. Not because I was learning new information but because Chokshi and now his Deputy Commissioner, Dr. Morse, are so grounding and reassuring. There is something gentle and confident and comforting about both of them.

And, too, I did learn something from Dr. Dave (he calls himself this, I’m not being overly casual). In one of his newer PSAs, he reviews the three kinds of masks recommended to keep us Omicron-safe … which is how I learned (FINALLY!) the name of the mask I’ve been wanting to try: the Kf94. I’ve been seeing people wearing these masks (they’re quite common), but every time I ask someone what it’s called, they’ve told me it’s a KN95 … which is a totally different mask.

So, I’ve just ordered a batch of these “fish mouth” masks (does anyone really call them that?!), and I’m hopeful that they’ll work better for me than the N95s and KN95s I’ve struggled with.

I will now acknowledge that I love these tiny PSAs, these quick hits of health info. Love them. Dr. Dave and Dr. Michelle are pleasing the mess out of me. I would love to know whose idea these spots were. Who looked at Dr. Chokshi and said: yes, this guy is exactly who the city needs to hear from during commercial breaks. I’d like to shake that person’s hand and commend their cleverness. Dr. Chokshi is a hit, and now so is Dr. Morse. They’re a one-two punch of public health help.

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And yes, there’s more to the fabulousness of these PSAs than the Covid messages that are being given. Both the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner are BIPOC. Both appear on camera in lab coats with their names embroidered over the breast pocket. And I can’t help but think about the power of that image, the power of seeing this brown man and Black woman standing and delivering, representing the formal administration of health and safety for this city full of brown and Black people.

There’s always someone who questions how much representation matters, who questions whether it matters at all. I’m not here to argue nonsensical questions. It matters. Full stop. These PSAs are plentiful, and they’re quick, tossed into the sea of ads that fill in the spaces between segments of our chosen programming. Seeing Doctors Chokshi and Morse over and over in their quiet minute-long spots is sending an even quieter message, one that I am definitely here for.

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I am making myself laugh, seeing how into these PSAs I am … and now I’m even more into them because I’ve just seen a new one that features the First Deputy Commissioner and Chief Equity Officer at DOHMH, Dr. Torian Easterling. Dr. Easterling is a big, Black man with a resonant, calmingly authoritative voice. He’s also someone I met back when I worked in the Mayor’s Office and whom I’ve liked and admired for years.

These PSAs are exactly what I needed right now. I wish I could also believe they will be the magic bullet that will help turn the tide here, bump up our vax percentage and get the unmasked to straighten up and fly right. I don’t see that happening as a result of gentle PSAs, but a girl can dream.

In the meantime, I’m just enjoying seeing “the city’s doctor” encourage sanity and compassion. Thanks, Dr. Dave!


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Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
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Original Slicer - GirlGriot

12 thoughts on “Better than a message from our sponsors …

  1. Unfortunately my governor has declared that the pandemic is over (Iowa), and it’s back to normal. NOT! I don’t know what Paramount Plus is so I’m woefully behind new things out through the air waves!

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  2. The doctors, as you’ve described them, sound like versions of Mr. Rogers. And we do need correctives to the strident rhetoric, I think. As I read I also thought about how important representation is and the way your thoughts today parallel my own, sort of. Now I’m off to find those masks! We have a low vac rate here and an even lower masking rate. It’s demoralizing at times.

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    1. Oh, I hadn’t thought about the Mr. Rogers angle, Glenda, but you’re right. They do have that same kindly, intelligent, calm demeanor! I hope you find the masks (mine are back-ordered and won’t arrive for another 10-14 days, alas).

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