DULUTH — Wear your masks and stay smart because St. Louis County has a COVID-19 referee.

The fictional character can be found in commercials popping into people's lives, using humor and football metaphors in his quest to make the Minnesota county a safer, more rule-abiding place during the pandemic.

It's all part of the county's public health outreach campaign to spread encouragement, raise awareness and share tips about COVID-19 safety measures, such as how to quarantine, gather safely and wear a mask.

"COVID Ref," as he's called, does just that.

The campaign was paid for using Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding and local actors, including Solomon Witherspoon as the referee.

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"What an amazingly talented guy," Dana Kazel, the county's communications manager, said of Witherspoon. "He just embraced the role and was fabulous."

The campaign involved local agencies. Creative Arcade, a marketing agency in Duluth, created and directed the campaign.

Danger Bird Productions, a Duluth-based videography and photography company, filmed and edited the videos.

Kazel said as soon as the Creative Arcade pitched its two ideas for the project, one having a more serious tone and the other being "COVID Ref," everyone involved agreed they wanted to take the lighthearted approach. They believed it would make the messaging more memorable.

"Everyone is so tired of having more rules thrown at them," she said. "So if we can get them across in a more entertaining way I think that's a win."

She said working on the campaign was a needed mood-booster and hopes it has the same effect on those viewing the commercials.

Future plans for the campaign include expanding it to print and other media should additional money through the CARES Act or through the county budget become available. The county is not planning to make additional commercials, which began airing on local television channels Tuesday.

Commercials can be found at covidref.com.