Culture Clips: Celebs Take on COVID-19

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The March news cycle was dominated by the coronavirus, and April isn’t shaping up to be much different. If anything, concerns are ramping up. But without any movies to go to or sports events to watch, several celebrities are telling us that they’ve got our backs.

Taylor Swift (who, admittedly, is not hurting for ready cash) is shuffling money off to some of her financially struggling fans. For instance, when Swiftie Holly Turner posted on Twitter that she didn’t know whether she’d be able to stay in New York City because of underemployment, Swift saw the post and chucked $3,000 her way. “Holly, You’ve always been there for me,” Swift wrote. “I want to be there for you right now.”

Swift’s not the only one. Dolly Parton is donating $1 million to Vanderbilt University to help the institution find a cure. Billy Joel’s foundation made a $500,000 donation to help provide protective equipment to healthcare workers—the first of many expected donations. Celebrity chef Guy Fieri is starting a fund, hoping to help impacted restaurant workers with donations of $500 each. NFL star Russell Wilson and his wife, singer Ciara, are donating a million meals to the Food Lifeline, which helps provide food to those in Western Washington. Ryan Reynolds is giving 30% of the proceeds of the liquor company he owns (Aviation Gin) to out-of-work bartenders.

And the list goes on.

Some celebs are giving some time, too. Elton John served as host for The iHeart Living Room Concert for America on Sunday—making due with his son’s keyboard. (“I have to be quarantined in the only house I have ever been in without a piano,” he sighed.) Billy Eilish, Tim McGraw, Mariah Carey, Demi Lovato and plenty of others offered their own musical offerings, as well. Kristen Bell hosted a Nickelodeon special on Monday to ease some coronavirus-centered fears that kids (and their parents) may have. “I feel like right now, kids’ questions and worries might be getting overlooked,” she told Fox News. “I wanted kids to feel empowered to ask questions and create a place where they are heard.”

Matt Damon, Kate Winslett and other actors—stars of the resurgent movie Contagion—reunited (virtually) for a public service announcement on how to stay safe during the outbreak. Game of Thrones star Emilia Clark was auctioning off a virtual dinner with her to raise 250,000 pounds (about $309,000) for a coronavirus relief fund. Not to be outdone, Chris Hemsworth—Thor himself—was offering free virtual workouts on his fitness app Centr.

Not every celeb has been as helpful, though. Some Instagram influencers are being criticized for posting pictures depicting unsafe practices during this strange, unprecedented time. One popular Twitter user, Ireland Tate, downplayed the virus on her social platform of choice and now feels pretty bad … literally. She came down with the virus and admitted that it’s not fun. “It feels like someone is setting on my chest at all times,” she told news station FOX 17. “I’ve coughed until my throat has bled.”

Not everything is suffering during this difficult time, though. TV ratings are up. Certain songs—from R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” to Gloria Gaynor’s more hopeful “I Will Survive”—have been surging on streaming sites. And while the makers of such movies as The Invisible Man and Onward certainly would like to be playing in theaters right now, at least these movies find solace in landing at No. 1 and No. 2 on Fandango’s VOD service, FandangoNow. (Not surprisingly, Fandango said that this weekend was the service’s “biggest weekend ever.”)

But while movies, music and television all are serving as diversions during the pandemic, video game manufacturers are being touted by some as a “recommended treatment” for quarantine blues. Game makers have created a new initiative called #PlayApartTogether, encouraging folks to engage in their screen-based games while staying physically distant. The effort is being supported by the World Health Organization—even though the same organization has previously called video game addiction a mental health disorder.

“We’re at a crucial moment in defining outcomes of this pandemic,” wrote Ray Chambers, WHO ambassador for global strategy, in a Tweet. “Games industry companies have a global audience – we encourage all to #PlayApartTogether. More physical distancing + other measures will help to flatten the curve + save lives.”

So if you’ll excuse me, I have some Animal Crossing to play.