Author Julie Powell, whose book Julie and Julia was turned into a hit 2009 movie starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, died of cardiac arrest on October 26 at the age of 49, according to a new report from the New York Times. But it’s Powell’s last tweet, sent the day before she died, that’s garnered a lot of attention on social media as fans try to make sense of the tragedy.
“So I woke up with something that’s literally Black Hairy Tongue. People, including my doctor, seem to think it’s no big deal, and will go away soon, but it certainly is gross,” Powell tweeted on October 25.
The Mayo Clinic’s website describes black hairy tongue as a “buildup of dead skin cells” that accumulate on the tongue, explaining that while it can look alarming, “typically it doesn’t cause any health problems, and it’s usually painless.”
Many Twitter users started discussing Powell’s last tweet, with some suggesting her untimely death, along with her diagnosis of black hairy tongue, could have been caused by a covid-19 infection. Others, more inclined to conspiracy theories about the covid-19 vaccine, tried to frame the death as a result of vaccination.
Based on a search of her tweets, it appears Powell’s husband recently contracted covid-19 twice in the span of just one month and Powell herself tweeted about having the disease in mid-September.
“Decided to take a nap and woke up sick like a dog. This is how the covid hits, I guess. All of a sudden like,” Powell tweeted on September 10.
A few days later she shared another tweet about how painful it was living with covid-19.
“Weirdly, my Covid is getting worse. Terrible headache, cough, probable fever, fatigue,” Powell tweeted on September 13.
Many right-wing influencers like Tim Pool have seized on the premature deaths of people in the news to suggest that the covid-19 vaccine has caused the deaths, and Powell’s passing was no different. And while adverse reactions to the vaccine can occur, they’re believed to be extremely rare. There are also people who treat every early death in the news these days as something that was almost certainly caused by covid-19. While it’s possible Powell’s death had something to do with covid-19, we simply don’t have any evidence either way right now.
The U.S. is currently averaging about 39,000 new cases each day, according to BNO News, one of the few places still aggregating data for the entire country on a daily basis now that the CDC has stopped providing updates. The seven-day average for deaths from the disease currently sits at 324. The U.S. has reported over 97 million cases of covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, likely a vast undercount as cases detected at home aren’t added to the official tally, and over 1 million deaths.
Examining the last tweets and other social media posts of famous people has become a common occurrence now, especially when those people died relatively young. As just one example, fans of musician Chris Cornell were shocked when the Soundgarden frontman took his own life at the age of 52 in 2017, given that his last tweet showed no indication that he was struggling emotionally. But it just shows how we never really know for certain what’s happening inside someone’s head, even as we get a historically unprecedented glimpse of their lives through social media.