Butch T. Cougar and Joe Vandal are working together to combat community spread of COVID-19.

The beloved mascots, both masked up, are jointly pictured on a billboard that debuts today, Sept. 28, along the highway between Pullman and Moscow. The signage is part of a new public awareness campaign called “Two cities, two universities—one community,” an effort aimed at showing that both cities along with Washington State University and the University of Idaho are all in this fight together.

“Given the proximity and complementary relationship of our two communities, it’s imperative that we work together with our friends and colleagues across the border to take every step possible to minimize the effects of COVID-19,” says WSU President Kirk Schulz.

“This campaign is intended to remind everyone that if each of us follows a few simple steps, we can protect the greater good of our Palouse communities,” Schulz continues. “Yes, it may be inconvenient at times to wear a mask or avoid large gatherings, but doing so protects the health of our most vulnerable family members, friends, and neighbors.”

As part of the campaign, community members—including students, faculty, and staff at both universities as well as residents, civic leaders, and business owners on both sides of the state line—are encouraged to show their regional pride and spirit of cooperation with the hashtag #PalouseUnity.

“To many, 2020 seems like a lost year. We’ve cancelled, postponed, and adapted so many things that we enjoy on the Palouse. But the resiliency our communities are known for has shown through,” says Moscow mayor Bill Lambert. “Flexibility has become our new norm as we change plans to meet local regulations and health and safety best practices. It’s been difficult for everyone. I have faith that the Palouse will make it through this and any other challenges we face because, as we always say, we are in this together.”

In addition to the hashtag and social media messaging, the campaign includes radio spots and a second billboard that’s slated to also appear along State Route 270 in early October.

Along with unity, the campaign encourages pandemic health and safety protocols. This includes:

  • Wearing face masks or other face coverings
  • Maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet from people, especially indoors
  • Washing hands frequently and thoroughly
  • Avoiding large gatherings and events where masking and distancing measures aren’t being followed
  • Frequenting business that are following best practices for “crushing the curve”
  • Refraining from travel outside the area
  • Self-quarantining upon return, if travel is necessary

To kick off the campaign, the mayors of both Pullman and Moscow and presidents of both WSU and UI released a joint statement earlier this month emphasizing the two cities and two universities in two states make up “one community.”

They wrote: “Those of us who live on the Palouse know that while our part of the world features two world-class, land-grant universities working in two different cities in two different states, this is, by every measure, a single community. … Many University of Idaho employees live in Pullman; many Washington State University employees live in Moscow. Shopping, restaurants, farmers markets, concerts, lectures and athletic events on both sides of the state line attract audiences from both sides of the state line. … It takes less than 10 minutes to drive from the border of one city to the other, a little longer if you use the bike path connecting us.”

Civic and university leaders also noted “that proximity also highlights the responsibility we all bear to keep each other safe and healthy.”