As the Trump administration pleads with Generation Z and millennials to follow social distancing guidelines, it appears they are taking a page from the Obama-era playbook as coronavirus task force members are appearing on platforms beyond the usual network television and print outlets to target young people.
The efforts come midway through the administration’s 15-day push to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in the United States through social distancing practices.
“The Task Force understands that it needs to go where the audience is. After President Trump released the ’15 Days to Slow the Spread’ guidance, we needed to communicate to millennials and Gen Zers that, while the disease overwhelmingly affects the elderly and those with serious underlying health conditions, they need to do their part as well,” White House coronavirus task force spokesman Devin O’Malley told CNN.
Dr. Deborah Birx was interviewed by Claudia Oshry, known on social media as @GirlWithNoJob, and her sister Jackie for “The Morning Toast” YouTube show and podcast.
In a 17-minute interview that posted Tuesday, Birx talked about social distancing and hard surface transmission. She explained what young people should do if they experience symptoms and said she’s been social distancing from her own grandchildren.
Asked which actress she’d like to to play her in the inevitable movie adaptation of the last few weeks, she suggested Julia Roberts.
Birx also appeared on “Skimm This,” a podcast from morning newsletter “The Skimm,” which targets millennial women, last week.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who called on social media influencers to spread the word about social distancing during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” was successful in getting Kylie Jenner to post on Instagram stories encouraging her followers to practice social distancing. He also made a live appearance on Cheddar.
Dr. Anthony Fauci did an episode of Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” last week. During the 40-minute appearance, hosted by sports personalities named “PFT Commenter” and “Big Cat,” Fauci said his role is “very stressful” because the administration takes the virus “very seriously” and explained why social distancing is important for young people: “We need the young people to help us to protect the vulnerable.”
Fauci also confirmed that, at 79, he is still running and/or power walking over three miles a day – but has been so busy he hasn’t had a chance to do it the last few weeks “except for the weekend.”
One of the hosts told Fauci he should lie and tell Americans they could spread it to their dogs. “You should protect everybody you care for, including your dogs,” Fauci said.
PFT Commenter, also known as Eric Sollenberger, told the New York Post, “when I got the email, I was thinking to myself that things must have the potential to get really bad if it has reached the point where [Dr. Fauci’s] office is trying to get him on ‘Pardon My Take’ to connect with the younger listeners out there,”
Barstool Sports is set to do another task force interview this week, this time with Marc Short, chief of staff to the vice president, per O’Malley. And it appears there are more to come.
“Finding creative ways to speak to certain audiences has been noticed, and we have interest in other collaborations with the Task Force,” O’Malley said.
The strategy harkens back to the Obama administration, when then-President Barack Obama appeared alongside Zach Galifianakis to promote Healthcare.gov on an episode of “Between Two Ferns.” Obama also promoted the exchange in interviews with popular YouTube personalities from the East Room.
The Trump administration is doing whatever it can to break through to young people in the critical days ahead.
“I hope they just listen to what we’ve been saying over the last period of time. We don’t want them gathering, and I see that they do gather including on beaches, and including in restaurants, young people,” President Donald Trump said at a task force briefing last week.
“They don’t realize that – they’re feeling invincible, I don’t know if you felt invincible when you were young. But they don’t realize that they could be carrying lots of bad things home to their grandmother and grandfather and even their parents,” he said. “So, we want them to heed the advice … and I do believe it’s getting through.”