Franco Harris promoting "Proud to Protect Pittsburgh" campaign.

With Covid cases spiking across the board in western PA — and the potential for holiday gatherings to make it much worse — major Pittsburgh employers and local celebrities are hoping to inspire residents to be “Proud to Protect Pittsburgh.”

The hope is to get Pittsburghers (in the 10-county region of western PA) to do everything they can to protect themselves and those around them throughout the winter until mass vaccination is widely available.

“Vaccines are on the way, but they won’t be widely available for some time,” says Sally Wiggin, former WTAE-TV anchor and project spokesperson. “Until then, each of us can take Pittsburgh pride in doing the smart things to protect ourselves and everybody we know and love. Pittsburgh, we’ve got this, and before too long we’ll have another reason to celebrate.”

The campaign’s basic message is “Be proud to do the right things now to protect each other and let us all get back to enjoying life in the region we love.”

The messages are simple, and ones you’ve heard before: be proud to protect Pittsburgh by social distancing, by wearing a mask, by limiting your gatherings, by protecting healthcare workers and by keeping your employees safe. But by having them come from the mouths of Pittsburghers, addressed to Pittsburghers, the campaign hopes to make protecting the community a matter of local pride.

“Southwestern Pennsylvania is more of a community than a slice of geography,” says Laura Karet, president and CEO of Giant Eagle and incoming Allegheny Conference chair.  “We care for each other like neighbors, even though we don’t necessarily live next door. Right now, that spirit will serve us well and help to move us forward to better times in the new year. I’m confident that Pittsburghers will embrace this opportunity to wear Pittsburgh pride on their sleeves — and on their masks — and come together to help protect each other and the places that mean so much to us.”

Karet is leading the Allegheny Conference’s COVID-19 Resurgence Task Force, along with Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO of self-driving car giant Argo AI. The Allegheny Conference is coordinating the project along with leaders from the University of Pittsburgh, PNC, Highmark Heath, UPMC, the Henry L. Hillman Foundation and others.

“It’s game time for the people of Pittsburgh in our fight against COVID-19,” says Steelers legend Franco Harris, a spokesman for the project. “We have to team up and work together. That will help us protect each other, our hospitals, schools, businesses and our entire economy, and put us on a path to once again enjoying our favorite parts of Pittsburgh.”

The centerpiece of the campaign is a video:

The first phase of the campaign is focused on fighting the virus’s resurgence.

Another phase in 2021 will encourage vaccination to help bring an end to the pandemic.

“Our goal is to see effective and efficient vaccine deployment across all parts of our region so that we are in the best position to have a healthy economy and be a leader among communities coming out of the pandemic recession,” says Allegheny Conference CEO Stefani Pashman.

Michael Machosky

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.