It may seem hard to fathom now, but in the early stages of the outbreak, for many the coronavirus pandemic only got real when one of Hollywood’s most popular actors tested positive for the illness. Yes, it turned out that even the rich and famous weren’t immune from the outbreak that has impacted the entire world in the space of a few short months. And several other celebrities have since contracted the virus, too.
The coronavirus outbreak originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019. By the following spring the following year the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) had officially recognized it as a global pandemic. As of late March 2020 approximately 180,000 people had been infected with the virus across no fewer than 160 different countries.
To its credit, Tinseltown soon acted quickly to try and prevent the disease spreading further. Studio bosses shut down productions on a whole host of films and TV shows being made across the world. Unfortunately, this unprecedented move came too late for several famous faces. Indeed, a multiple Oscar winner, a Bond girl and a Game of Thrones star were just a few of the celebs who were diagnosed with the virus early on.
Pretty soon the coronavirus was all that the Hollywood elite could talk about. Indeed, many other A-listers took to various social media platforms to update fans on their situation and offer advice. Here’s a closer look at how the showbiz world has been rocked by and reacted to the pandemic.
Tom Hanks was the first major figure from the entertainment world reported to have contracted the coronavirus. The Forrest Gump star was in Australia shooting a biopic of rock and roll king Elvis Presley when he began showing flu-like symptoms. His wife and fellow actress Rita Wilson also displayed the same signs of illness.
However, Hanks appeared to take the news in his stride. In an Instagram post he wrote, “Well, now. What to do next? The medical officials have protocols that must be followed. We Hanks will be tested, observed and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires. Not much more to it than a one-day-at-a-time approach, no? We’ll keep the world posted and updated. Take care of yourselves!”
Shortly after, Hanks and Wilson’s son Chet went viral with his response to the news. Showing off his multiple tattoos while shirtless, the rapper/actor uploaded a clip to Instagram to inform fans that his parents were fine. He said, “They’re not even that sick. They’re not worried about it.” Chet also told his followers that Hanks and Wilson “aren’t trippin’ but they’re going through the necessary health precautions, obviously.”
Tom Hanks himself also made sure to keep fans updated about his and wife Rita’s condition. While the couple were in isolation, the two-time Academy Award winner uploaded a photo to Twitter of a toy kangaroo holding an Australian flag next to a plate of Vegemite on toast. He captioned the pic, “Thanks to the Helpers. Let’s take care of ourselves and each other.”
Thankfully, in a rare bit of good news amidst all the doom and gloom, Hanks and Wilson were later allowed to leave the Australian hospital at which they’d received treatment. Once again their son Chet took to Instagram to expand on his parents’ situation. And he revealed that they’d been allowed to self-quarantine in the home they were renting in Queensland.
Hanks may have been the first major celebrity to have tested positive for the coronavirus but he certainly wasn’t the last. Just a week later Idris Elba announced that he, too, had been diagnosed with the disease. A star of seminal TV dramas such as The Wire and Luther, not to mention a host of movies including Thorand Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, he tweeted, “I feel okay. I have no symptoms so far but have been isolated since I found out about my possible exposure to the virus.”
In a video he posted on Twitter, Elba expanded on his condition while sitting alongside his wife Sabrina, who hadn’t been tested at the time. He explained, “I got tested because I realized I was exposed to someone who also tested positive. I found out last Friday that they tested positive, I quarantined myself immediately and got a test immediately and got the results back today. It’s serious.”
“Look, we live in a divided world right now, we can all feel it, it’s been bull****,” Elba continued. “Now’s the time for solidarity. Now’s the time for thinking about each other. There are so many people whose lives have been affected, from people who’ve lost somebody they love to people who don’t even have it and have lost their livelihoods. This is real.”
Elba is one of many names in the frame to be the next James Bond. And someone who’d previously appeared in the 007 franchise was also diagnosed around the same time. Olga Kurylenko, who played a Bond girl in Quantum of Solace, had been laid up in bed for nearly seven days before discovering the cause.
The Ukrainian-born star kept fans updated on her condition in an Instagram post. She wrote, “Locked up at home after having tested positive for coronavirus. I’ve actually been ill for almost a week now. Fever and fatigue are my main symptoms. Take care of yourself and do take this seriously!”
Kristofer Hivju then became the next TV celebrity to prove that the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate. Best known for his Game of Thrones role as formidable wildling raider Tormund Giantsbane, the Norwegian took to Instagram to reveal he’d tested positive for COVID-19. He told fans that he was self-isolating along with his family and that they were all feeling “in good health.”
Hivju also urged fans to do “everything you can to stop the virus from spreading.” He wrote, “There are people at higher risk for who this virus might be a devastating diagnosis, so I urge all of you to be extremely careful; wash your hands, keep 1,5 meters distance from others, go in quarantine… Together we can fight this virus and avert a crisis at our hospitals. Please take care of each other, keep your distance, and stay healthy!”
Away from the showbiz world, several other notable names also contracted the coronavirus early on. Rudy Gobert, who plays for the N.B.A. franchise the Utah Jazz, was the first major sportsperson to test positive for COVID-19. Shortly after, his teammate Donovan Mitchell was also discovered to have the same condition. As a result of Gobert’s diagnosis, the N.B.A. season was suspended for a period of at least a month.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi was the first soccer player to be diagnosed with the coronavirus. Subsequently, the winger and the rest of the London-based team went into self-isolation. But the Premier League only decided to put the 2019-20 season on hold when Arsenal manager Mikael Arteta revealed he’d also contracted the illness.
In the political world, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided to self-isolate after his wife began displaying symptoms associated with the virus. Sophie Trudeau had started feeling unwell following a trip to the United Kingdom to speak at a women’s empowerment event. The First Lady had also taken a photo alongside Idris Elba after her speech at London’s Wembley Arena.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s wife Begona Gomez also tested positive for the virus. Likewise Nicola Zingaretti, who’s been the secretary of Italy’s co-ruling Partito Democratico (Democratic Party) since 2019. And over in the United Kingdom, health minister Nadine Dorries was the first politician forced to self-isolate after learning that she had contracted COVID-19.
Unsurprisingly, many famous faces who have not yet had to deal with the coronavirus directly have still voiced their opinions on it. Indeed, Instagram, in particular, was soon flooded with posts from celebrities either updating fans about their health or offering advice. But few were as entertaining as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s.
In the charming clip, the Terminator star can be seen feeding and stroking Lulu and Whiskey, his pet ponies, in his kitchen while advising fans in his unmistakable Austrian accent. “The important thing is that you stay at home because there’s a curfew now,” Schwarzenegger warns. “No one is allowed out.”
Referring to his own advancing years, Schwarzenegger then continued, “Especially someone who is 72 years old. After 65, you’re not allowed out [of] your house any more in California, so you gotta stay home. That’s what we do. We don’t go to restaurants, we don’t go to anything like that any more here.”
Gwyneth Paltrow is renowned for spouting her wisdom on all kinds of health-related matters with her Goop project. So it’s little surprise that the Oscar-winner also popped up on Instagram to offer some advice to her followers about the virus. However, this time around her tips were far more practical and straight-forward. She wrote, “Don’t shake hands. Wash hands frequently.”
And few other Hollywood stars are as well-equipped to deal with such an outbreak as Paltrow. In 2011 the actress appeared in Contagion, the Steven Soderbergh thriller about a fatal virus that swept across the entire globe. “I’ve already been in this movie,” Paltrow captioned an airborne selfie in which she sported a face mask en route to Paris.
Fellow actress Kate Hudson followed suit by uploading a mask-clad selfie of herself to Instagram with the caption, “Travel. 2020.” However, the star’s followers soon alerted her to the fact that the surgical disposable mask she was wearing wouldn’t be of much use. Hudson later replied to Paltrow’s post, “At least you have the right mask!!!”
Naomi Campbell opted for something a little more stylish than a surgical face mask. The supermodel told her followers, “Be safe” alongside a photo of her sporting a fetching pair of pink rubber gloves complete with gold watch. Campbell also later uploaded a video to YouTube in which she expanded on her efforts to protect herself against the outbreak.
Italy has been one of the nations most affected by the outbreak. And so fans of Eva Longoria became worried when they discovered the actress was filming in the country. But the Desperate Housewives star soon uploaded a clip to Instagram to inform them that she was safe and well.
Longoria went on to tell her 7.7 million followers, “Thank you for your concerns. I am shooting in this small town in Italy. I’m nowhere near the north. Everybody was calling and texting me and talking about the coronavirus in the north of Italy. It’s really sad but we’re further away.”
Other stars have reacted a little more strongly to the outbreak. In an Instagram story Taylor Swift was keen to remind fans that it’s not just their own health they’re putting at risk should they choose to ignore government advice. She began, “I’m seeing lots of get-togethers and hangs and parties still happening. This is the time to cancel plans.”
The Grammy-winning singer went on to warn fans, “Truly isolate as much as you can and don’t assume that because you don’t feel sick that you aren’t possibly passing something on to someone elderly or vulnerable to this. It’s a really scary time but we need to make sacrifices right now.”
Silicon Valley TV star Kumail Nanjiani sympathized with those working in the service industry in a post on Twitter. However, he went on to tell his followers, “Consider not packing bars/restaurants right now. This, right now, is what you can do to stem the spread. Hospitals will get overwhelmed in mere weeks. We can #flattenthecurve.”
Ariana Grande has always been one of the most outspoken pop stars. So it wasn’t exactly surprising when she took aim at those defying orders to stay at home and continuing with their normal daily routine. “Like your hip hop yoga class can f***ing wait I promise,” the chart-topper tweeted in a first-rate example of throwing shade.
Others opted for a more light-hearted approach to the issue. “Have to remember my stocked fridge is to last my family for weeks, not a challenge for me to finish all in one day,” comedic actress Mindy Kaling quipped on Twitter in reference to her self-isolation plans. She also tweeted, “The only time you should sing “Happy Birthday” slowly is when you’re using it to time your hand washing.”
Conan O’Brien also offered several one-liners about the pandemic on his Twitter feed. The late-night talk show host joked, “My doctor told me “no hugging” and “no personal contact.” Man, I’ve got the perfect family for the Coronavirus.” He followed it up with, “I hope we can soon return to a time when cruises were considered just normal levels of kinda gross and unappealing.”
Ben Affleck chose to use his fame for the greater good during such a difficult time. The movie star and Argo director encouraged his followers to donate money to Feeding America, a non-profit organization designed to eradicate hunger in the United States. He tweeted, “I’m thinking about our most vulnerable – children losing access to meals they rely on, friends and family who are facing job disruptions, the elderly, and low-income families.”
Hollywood A-lister Chris Evans got political with his response to the outbreak after watching a briefing by Donald Trump. The Captain America star tweeted, “The president just ran off stage after his rambling press conference without answering a single question. America wants answers. America wants leadership. America doesn’t want a president who runs off stage during a crisis and lets Mike Pence do all the talking.”
The ever-outspoken Chelsea Handler also used the opportunity to take a pot shot at Trump. The comedienne tweeted, “Now would be a good time for Republicans to declare Trump’s incompetence and insanity. People are sick and don’t know what to do. Test kits? Dow just dropped 2,100 points. Are Republicans now ready to save this country, since older white men are all at risk and so is your money?”
And some celebrities haven’t been able to resist a spot of self-promotion while extolling the virtues of cleanliness. Disco legend Gloria Gaynor, for example, lip sync-ed along to her own classic hit, “I Will Survive,” while washing her hands in a clip that went viral. Miley Cyrus and Troye Sivan have also referenced their own music in social media posts about the outbreak.
You perhaps wouldn’t expect a former W.W.E. wrestler-turned-Hollywood action hero to provide the most philosophical celebrity response. But John Cena tweeted, “Crisis and uncertainty are breeding grounds for panic. We all have feelings and need to recognize them good, or bad. But especially through unrest, our brains and logical thought will be our strongest ally.”