On Sunday afternoon, a few hours before President Donald Trump held a press conference to announce that the Federal Reserve had cut interest rates and request that Americans stop stockpiling food and supplies to prepare for coronavirus because “we’re doing great; it all will pass,” and six hours before former vice president Joe Biden and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders had yet another debate, pop star Ariana Grande sent a tweet that just said “please.” Attached was an image with a missive from Grande asking young people to take Covid-19 seriously, even if they thought the disease wouldn’t have an impact on them. Thinking that way, she said, put people who are older or not healthy in a lot of danger. “You sound stupid and privileged and you need to care more about others,” she wrote. “Like now.”
During a weekend that felt like chaos coated with uncertainty and dusted with misinformation, somehow, Ariana Grande surfaced as the voice of reason. The morning after some bars and restaurants closed to protect their patrons from Covid-19 while others stayed open as if nothing had changed, Grande told her 72 million followers to behave. It might’ve been the most clear-eyed message to come out of the weekend. Recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention project anywhere from 160 million to 214 million Americans could be infected with the coronavirus over the course of the pandemic. To help the US stay on the low end of that estimate people need to practice isolation, social distancing, hand washing. Or, as Grande said in a reply to her own tweet, “your hip-hop yoga class can fucking wait, I promise.”
Before we go any further, let’s get this out of the way: Oftentimes, celebrities chiming in on the State of the World is eye-roll-worthy. Stars can drum up a lot of support for candidates and causes, but they can just as easily be a distraction, or make the politician or issue seem less serious. Yet, with the spread of the coronavirus, the calculus has shifted. Lots of people—too many, most likely—aren’t taking the virus seriously, or they’re just misinformed. Having a pop star grab them by the lapels and tell them to grow up might be the best way to elicit behavioral change among people who are prone to feeling invulnerable. or something better. Everyone wants to feel that Covid-19 is a threat they don’t face—and that in turn is a huge threat to the elderly, immunocompromised, and otherwise susceptible people in their lives.
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Fairly soon after her initial post, Grande followed up to encourage everyone to support HR 6201 (yes, she actually used the bill number), the coronavirus relief measure passed by the House that Trump got behind, because it “will provide people with necessary financial support in terms of paid sick leave / unemployment due to coronavirus.” Her thread eventually got thousands of retweets and was written up in BuzzFeed, Rolling Stone, and Vulture, among others. Fans familiar with Grande’s statements in the past are likely not surprised to see her involved in the politics of the moment. She’s thrown support behind everything from Black Lives Matter to gun control. When she released her meme-ready video for “Thank U, Next,” as Trump’s no-tolerance immigration policies were being enacted along the US-Mexico border, she included a shot of herself reading Immigration and Refugee Law and Policy.
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If anything, her statements about Covid-19 are just the latest move in line with what she told Elle in 2018. “Not everyone is going to agree with you, but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to shut up and sing my songs,” she told the magazine. “I’m also going to be a human being who cares about other human beings; to be an ally and use my privilege to help educate people.”
Obviously, a lot of celebs have stepped up to encourage best practices when it comes to mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. Hell, before most of them went on hiatus, it was a steady topic of conversation on late-night talk shows. But at a time when the Red Cross is making TikToks to get people to wash their hands, humanity needs all the help it can get spreading the word about the severity of Covid-19. (Your move, Taylor Swift.) Tweets aren’t vaccines, but spreading information about the importance of social distancing is one of the best weapons available to combat the virus. Stan a public health conscious queen.
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