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Quebec musicians, athletes answer premier's call to warn youth on COVID-19

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MONTREAL — Quebec athletes and celebrities stepped up after the premier called on anyone with a large social media following to urge teens to heed COVID-19 health advice.

Soon after Premier Francois Legault's plea Tuesday for help reinforcing his message that young people need to avoid gatherings, videos began appearing on the social media accounts of athletes, musicians and other influencers. 

Coeur de Pirate, a Quebec singer-songwriter, was one of the first, recording a song with a humorous tone to impart Legault's message and share authorities' tips for staying safe.

"Listen to you parents," she sings in French at her piano, "They're maybe not right all the time, but this is important."

Montreal Canadiens forward Phillip Danault, Montreal Impact star Samuel Piette and freestyle skier Mikael Kingsbury, who has been in self-isolation for five days, all posted messages asking youth to co-operate.

Comedian Sugar Sammy added his voice.

"I haven't showered in 3 days, but my hands have never been cleaner," he quipped on Twitter. "Don't forget social distancing. Yes, it's annoying, but we're going to have great stories to tell our grandchildren."

Legault said while the information was largely anecdotal, it was worrisome nonetheless, considering that in Italy and South Korea, young people were shown to be transmitting the virus to those more vulnerable.

The premier said he welcomed the participation of everyone — even those who jokingly mocking his plea — saying it was good to laugh on Tuesday night. He urged the movement to continue.

"I'm very happy to see athletes, artists ... all these people telling the anglophones, the francophones, the allophones — everybody — please respect the rules," Legault said Wednesday.

"We have to continue, it's not over."

Retired Montreal Alouette's player Etienne Boulay wrote: "Let's go gang, lets listen to our coach @francoislegault. We are all destabilized, but the measures are necessary. And try to find the positive in all this, you'd be surprised to what point your mood will change."

Canadian conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin wrote: "Share music, not the virus!"

The request drew kudos from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who urged others to follow Quebec's example.

"Great idea! I'm joining Premier Francois Legault and extending this call to artists, athletes, and influencers right across the country," Trudeau tweeted. "If you have a platform, why not use it for good? Help everyone stay informed."

Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province's director of public health, recalled being told by his mother when he was young to go outside to play.

"It's quite rare for people to stay indoors, in front of screens, but now let's say that it can be fashionable," Arruda said. "Temporarily, we can do it."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2020.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press