Miami University students got a special message from "The Office" star Brian Baumgartner Monday afternoon: get the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Hello to everyone in the Miami University community," Baumgartner, who plays Kevin Malone on the popular TV series, said in the Cameo video. Cameo is a video-sharing website that allows celebrities to send personalized video messages to fans.
"Surprise! Guys, it's me. No, it's not Ashton Kutcher. It's me, Brian Baumgartner here. And I want to encourage all of you to what? To make healthy behavior choices. Listen, get the vaccine, OK?"
Baumgartner is the first of four celebrity appearances Miami students can expect in their inboxes over the next several weeks. The university's marketing department has launched a COVID-19 vaccination campaign as the vaccine mandate deadline approaches: exemption forms are due Oct. 15, proof of first vaccination dose due on Oct. 25 and full vaccination by Nov. 22.
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Jessica Rivinius, director of news and media relations at Miami, said the university is using video messages from celebrities to "break through the myriad of messaging out there to bring some levity and goodwill to our students, faculty, and staff."
With so many virus-related messages and updates going around this late into the pandemic, Rivinius said Miami's communications team hopes this new strategy stands out.
"Of course, we also wanted to remind people to continue healthy behaviors, get the vaccine, report their vaccination status, and commit to Miami’s Code of Love And Honor," Rivinius told The Enquirer.
Miami surveyed a number of students to ask which stars they'd like to hear from, Rivinius said, and identified a list of more than a dozen celebrities. A total of four public service announcements will go out through the Cameo videos.
"I want you to treat everyone in the Miami University community with respect and with decency," Baumgartner said in the video. "Only by making these healthy choices can we, well, survive."
This is not Baumgartner's first rendezvous with Cincinnati marketing. Two years ago he was featured on the Lackman's Facebook page teasing a guest appearance at the bar's fall chili cook-off.
"I actually may be making a special appearance there because my chili is unparalleled in all of the land, that is for sure," Baumgartner said in the video.
Religious and medical exemptions are permitted to Miami's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, though university officials said exemption requests could take up to two weeks to review. Unvaccinated students and employees with approved exemptions must submit to regular COVID-19 testing, quarantine for 10 days if identified as a close contact of a person with the virus, and could possibly be excluded from campus facilities and activities if there is an outbreak at the university.
Students who do not comply with the mandate will not be able to register for spring classes. Employees unwilling to vaccinate against the virus are subject to disciplinary measures. More than 75% of on-campus students have already provided proof of vaccination, officials said.