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Elementary student starts contest to encourage COVID-19 safety

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY – Rohan Joseph wants people to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rising fifth-grader at Sacred Heart Catholic School wondered if the president could require cell service providers to send emergency notifications to phones reminding people about important prevention measures like masks and staying 6 feet apart.

His mom, Nalini, asked Rohan to think smaller and challenged him to come up with a way to encourage people to stay safe in Salisbury. Rohan went on to form COVID Busters with some of his fellow fifth-graders and organize a poster contest to spread awareness throughout town.

Contestants submit poster designs addressing one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines will be printed and posted around local businesses who want to participate. Anyone can submit a design, but only rising fourth and fifth graders can win prizes. There are $50, $40, and $30 prizes up for grabs for places one through three. The prize money was issued by Mayor Karen Alexander’s office and Staples helped print fliers to advertise the contest.

Alexander, State Rep. Harry Warren (R-76) and State Sen. Carl Ford (R-13) all signed a letter supporting the contest. Rohan said the posters should catch people’s attention.

“For example, you’re driving into McDonald’s, and so they see this giant poster, and it says ‘wash your hands,’ and has all kinds of cool little drawings of people wearing masks and all that stuff,” Rohan said.

Rohan said the goal of the poster contest is to stop the spread of the virus in Salisbury. He takes the CDC’s guidelines seriously and is particularly interested in masks because they can catch viral particulate leaving someone’s airways, reducing the chances of asymptomatic people infecting others.

Behavior changes are the only effective methods we have for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Maintaining 6 feet of social distance, avoiding large groups, wearing a mask and washing hands and staying home if you are sick all reduce the chances of transmitting the viral respiratory infection. The contest addresses a serious subject, but Rohan has had a lot of fun with it.

“My favorite part, I gotta say, was meeting our local politicians, and knowing that you’re doing something good for your community.” Rohan said.

Rohan is interested in politics. Last week he was invited to visit the state legislator by Warren and Ford. He had lunch with them and saw the legislative building. Rohan said it was an exciting experience for him.

Rohan has big dreams and wants to become a surgeon. Someday, he wants to be president.

Nalini said she is happy Rohan had his experience in Raleigh. Even though the pandemic has become politicized, it should be treated as a health issue that affects everyone, she said.

Nalini said the group will take all the posters and place them throughout the city. If you want to submit a poster, it must be a 24 by 36 inches and an be dropped off at South Main Book Company by Aug. 1. Contact the group at covidbustersnc@gmail.com or visit covidbustersnc.org.

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