If you see someone wearing a red, white, and blue bracelet that says “Crush Covid” and “Take Back 2021,” you should be able to breathe a little easier knowing that the person has received their COVID-19 vaccination. And hopefully, you will be inspired by the person to get your vaccination as well. That’s the hope of South Dakotan Joshua Carlson, the inventor of the bracelet.

The bracelets are currently being distributed in Vermillion at Hy-Vee when you get your COVID-19 vaccination and at other select points of service throughout the state.

“My hope is that people will see other people wearing the bracelet and be comforted that the vaccine is safe,” said Carlson, a pediatric physical therapist who works in the school system in seven schools in southeastern South Dakota. “My goal is to be able to stand next to a stranger without thinking I am in danger, to be able to see my dad and mom without thinking I could be putting them at risk, and to be able to look back in one year and believe that I did everything I was able to do to help return the world to what we considered normal prior to the pandemic. … With the CDC’s new recommendations of relaxed distancing and masking around those who have gotten the vaccine, wouldn’t it be nice to have a way to display that you’ve gotten the vaccine?”

Carlson conceived of the Crush Covid bracelet idea as he was driving from one point to another during the past year.

“I spend a lot of time on the road between schools and have spent a lot of that windshield time trying to figure out how I could help during this pandemic,” he said. “I wanted to be able to help in any way. I wanted to find a way to display to people that I had gotten the vaccine because there seems to be a lot of hesitancy. As a medical provider, I understand that these inoculations are not taken lightly and must pass rigorous testing safety protocols.

“After some thought, I landed on the idea of a COVID Vaccination Awareness Campaign with a red, white, and blue bracelet as the symbol. The CrushCOVID and TakeBack2021 trademarks were phrases we put on the bracelet,” Carlson said. “I wanted to trademark the idea so people would be aware that when they saw an official CrushCOVID bracelet, they would know that person has had their vaccine. Hopefully this would help people decide it is safe and would influence more people to get the vaccine.”

Carlson funded the initial order of bracelets himself.

“The bracelets are not intended to be a "get rich" business idea but to increase COVID vaccination awareness and safety,” he said.

So far, more than 2,000 bracelets have been distributed in cities throughout South Dakota including Aberdeen, Alcester, Beresford, Bridgewater, Centerville, Canton, Highmore, Huron, Sisseton, and Vermillion and some in Des Moines, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska. Any clinic, hospital, pharmacy or business wanting bracelets to distribute to their immunized members are urged to contact Carlson at crushcovidSD@gmail.com

“We are only giving the bracelet to those who have gotten the vaccine in order to provide that symbolism of supporting alleviating the pandemic,” said Carlson. “Plus, it would be extremely difficult to manage patient sensitive data to send these out individually. That is why we like the businesses to verify vaccination as they are handing out these bracelets.”

Area residents can contribute to Carlson’s COVID Vaccination Awareness Campaign by trying to get local businesses, clinics, and pharmacies on board as the vaccination becomes more widespread and available to the general public.

“Talk to your business owners, physicians, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers to give out these symbols of freedom as they are also giving out the vaccination,” said Carlson. “The bracelet is meant to hold a meaning that the person has received the vaccine and is supporting CrushCOVID and pandemic alleviation.”

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