“Oh, to be young and carefree.” The two are almost synonymous in the world of Millennials and Gen Z. Throughout the pandemic we have seen Millennials congregate like none other, traveling to Miami like it’s spring break and taking mask-less selfies. It is apparent the traditional call to safety from the CDC was not entirely doing the trick of conveying the severity of COVID-19. In comes “Rona,” a character created in conjunction with public health officials as part of a million-dollar COVID-19 campaign aimed at Michiganders, but specifically young adults who do not realize they are infected.
“Rona” is featured as a red, tentacled, oblong structure with 6-foot arms that reach out and touch you; its cellular design is modeled after the actual virus itself. Rona enjoys hanging out in large groups, inside, outside and even on school campuses. “Rona is a mischievous, malevolent character bent on infecting and hurting Michiganders who let their guard down” per an official statement at Rona4Real.com. With everyday activities slowly but surely opening back up, it’s easy to make the mistake in underestimating susceptibility to the virus.
Not to be compared with an early 2000’s classic “Osmosis Jones” where a fictional cartoon character hijacked a fever and emphasized the importance of hygienic prevention, “Rona” is omni-present even without symptoms. The goal of the campaign not only characterizes the overt symptoms it possesses but its two most overlooked indications: fatigue and skepticism. Young adults, albeit notoriously bold, have a sense of invincibility. Rona addresses this in its very real depiction of its 6-foot long daunting arms reaching toward those unsuspectingly interacting in public. A reminder that even though you may not see it, or even feel it, COVID -19 is present.
Though the “Rona” campaign created by BLVD, a Detroit based creative firm, was not conceived to incite fear, it instills a concrete reminder to not turn a blind eye to the protective practices mandated to prevent the continuous spread of Covid-19.
“I will admit it has been very difficult trying to social distance being back on campus, being extroverted and being so close to your friends. I live alone and do not have a roommate and miss the social interaction,” said Monae, 20, a student at Wayne State University.
As the fall semester of classes begin, even online, there is an understandable desire to become lax about safety measures as things may start to feel “normal” again. No matter how they seem, our new reality has forever been altered by this devastating virus. “We’re all tired of this pandemic, but we need to realize that the coronavirus is real and really dangerous – and is still damaging our economic health,” says Gerry Anderson a leader of the coalition behind the Rona 4 Real campaign and executive chairman of DTE Energy.
Despite the ongoing cynicism about the necessity of masks and other PPE (personal protection equipment), data shows there is definitely a need for it. According to Crain’s Detroit Business, “Michigan residents ages 20 to 29 have the highest confirmed cases of COVID-19 (16.7 percent) than any other age group.” With this information in mind, the coalition intends to invest $5 Million toward the “Rona 4 Real” campaign, with funders including leading Detroit companies DTE, TCF Bank, Dow and Quicken Loans Community Fund. A valiant effort to push the crusade forward highlighting that while the campaign features a cartoon, the scope of COVID-19 is not to be sketched lightly. To learn more about “Rona” visit Rona4Real.com or on facebook.com/RonaForReal, and Instagram.com/Rona4Real.