A character being called "Mr. Covidhead" is shown in this screengrab taken from a Government of Alberta video as part of its campaign to remind Albertans how stealthy and fast COVID-19 can spread through any social gathering. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Government of Alberta, covidloves.ca *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Nightmare on COVID Street: Virus-headed party provocateur stars in new Alberta ads

Nightmare on COVID Street: Virus-headed party provocateur stars in new Alberta ads

EDMONTON — Alberta, seeking to heal with hard-edged humour, has launched a COVID-19 advertising campaign starring a fashion-challenged, hard-partying, virus-headed Freddy Kruegeresque super-spreader.

The eggnog-slurping social-distance violator is the centrepiece of the $2-million campaign to remind Albertans how stealthy and fast the virus can spread at social gatherings.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said the goal is to find a way to reach those 20 to 39.

“We are continuing the serious and fact-based (ad) campaigns. Those have not stopped,” Hinshaw said Friday.

“But we felt that it was important to add an additional tool to communicate more effectively to groups that may not have been taking our message as seriously — and to use humour, actually, to help them take the message more seriously.”

It’s part of a larger social awareness and information campaign anchored to a website titled covidloves.ca.

The star is a man with an oversized grey head, like the novel coronavirus, spiked with red fuzz and sporting menacing eyes and a leering smile of pointy, misshapen teeth.

In one ad, the dubbed Mr. Covidhead, with a beer gut and Hawaiian shirt, arrives to dangerously dance, hug and spread the night away at a house party.

In another, he is a dweeby uncle in an ugly Christmas sweater, hanging out with kids and grandparents and making sure he gets his mitts on every last plate and pot passed around the festive table.

Hinshaw stressed that no one was put at risk in the making of the dangerously happy-huggy videos.

“These ads were filmed last month under strict protocols to protect the safety of everyone present,” she Hinshaw.

“The cast and crew were required to follow strict protocols, including screening, off-camera masking and distancing at all times when the camera wasn’t rolling.”

Alberta introduced tougher measures this week that sharply reduce or close businesses and shutter libraries, recreation centres and casinos to try to reduce soaring cases of COVID-19.

Social gatherings of any size indoors and out are banned. Outdoor skaters, skiers, walkers and runners must follow health orders to keep two metres apart.

The restrictions run through the new year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2020.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

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