The “Students for COVIDWISE” video was produced with Virginia State University. 

(Richmond, Va.) – A Virginia Department of Health (VDH) public service video for the COVIDWISE exposure notification app has won a Telly Award and has been nominated for two Emmy Awards.

The campaign’s full-length video, “Students for COVIDWISE,” won a Silver Telly Award in the Promotional Video: Craft-Writing category. The Emmy Award nominations are in the Public Service Announcement (Campaign) and Short Form Content (Under 10 minutes) categories from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences – National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter. VDH contracted with Advanced Creative Services at Virginia State University to direct and produce the content for use on TV, social media, web and radio.

“As we enter this next phase of the pandemic, with more of us vaccinated and fewer restrictions, it is important to remember the virus is out there and infecting people. We need to stay vigilant in reducing the spread of this infection. Until we can say the pandemic is over, we need tools like COVIDWISE with engaging content that promotes continued use of exposure notifications to help protect themselves and those around them,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A.

“The high school and college graduates of 2020 lost many once-in-a-lifetime moments due to COVID-19, forming the genesis of the ‘Students for COVIDWISE’ campaign,” said Jeff Stover, Chief of Staff for the Virginia Department of Health. “A Telly Award and two Emmy nominations are a magnificent way to acknowledge and honor their sacrifices.”

The Telly Awards, founded in 1979, annually showcases the best work created in television and video, for all screens. Nominations are received from all 50 states and five continents. Previous Telly Award winners have included AOL Studios, BET Networks, ESPN, Discovery Communications, FOX, HBO and The History Channel.

The Emmys honor excellence in television programming and are presented in various area-specific ceremonies held annually throughout the year. This year’s Emmy Awards winners will be announced June 26.

The video was directed by filmmaker Jesse E. Vaughan Jr., a Richmond native and multiple Emmy-winner, who wanted to be a part of the project because of the personal message the script conveyed about COVID as it relates to young people.

“Right away, it possessed an emotional fabric because people can all relate to how COVID has affected them in all aspects of their lives,” Vaughan said. “And in this case, it was young people, so not only were they involved in the storytelling process, but they were also involved in being on camera and telling parts of their story. And I like that part of it because it wasn’t just about conveying technical knowledge about the app, but it was personalizing the whole process of the importance of having the app.”

Vaughan, who spent almost 20 years in Hollywood and has won more than 30 Emmys, is known for “Juwanna Mann,” and his work on “In Living Color.” He is now chief communications and marketing officer at Richard Bland College.

Virginia’s free COVIDWISE app was the first exposure notifications app in the United States using the Google/Apple configuration. Approximately 2.1 million Virginians have initiated using COVIDWISE on their smartphones since its launch in August 2020. “Every person using COVIDWISE is helping to end this pandemic, no matter how small that effort may seem,” said Stover.

COVIDWISE alerts users if they have been in close contact with an individual who anonymously reported a positive COVID-19 test result. The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology to quickly notify users who have likely been exposed to COVID-19 with the goal of reducing the risk of infection and stopping disease transmission. COVIDWISE does not use any personal information or location data.

To learn more about COVIDWISE and download the app, visit

For more information on COVID-19 in Virginia, visit and