Tom Hanks Infected with COVID-19

Is this our Rock Hudson moment?

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (10552544kr) Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson. Tom Hanks, left, and Rita Wilson arrive at the Oscars, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles 92nd Academy Awards – Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA – 09 Feb 2020

In response to my early-morning posting arguing that the current pandemic may be “Worse Than 9/11 and the Great Recession Combined,” longtime commenter @OzarkHillbilly observed, “For most people, it isn’t real yet.”

As I was driving in to work this morning, I listened to this morning’s episode of the NYT Daily podcast, “Confronting a Pandemic.” In it, Donald G. McNeil Jr., a science and health reporter for paper, addressed that very point and noted that the public and the Reagan Administration didn’t really take the AIDS epidemic that seriously until actor Rock Hudson became ill and died from the disease. Suddenly, it went from a niche disease that impacted those people to one that claimed someone most Americans knew.

The interview was clearly recorded before President Trump’s speech last night and the news that actor Tom Hanks and his wife, actress Rita Wilson, had been diagnosed with COVID-19 while filming in Australia.

Like Hudson, Hanks has been a major star for decades. One wonders if the news of his infection will make people feel this just a bit more personally?

And, obviously, best wishes for the Hanks family. I’ve been a fan of his work since the “Bosom Buddies” days. That was four decades ago. It’s hard to believe he’s older now than Hudson was at the end.

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, Health, Popular Culture
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Teve says:

    I just saw yesterday that some people who don’t have insurance for being charged $1600 for this test. Australia is doing it for free.

    U-S-A! U-S-A!

    8
  2. Jen says:

    Is this that moment? No, I don’t think so–it’s notable, but that’s about it. I genuinely think that in order for this to become “real” for many, they will have to: a) know someone directly who is sick with it; b) see a high-profile death resulting from it; and/or c) lose a family member to it.

    I’m genuinely in disbelief that I am still seeing people arguing that this is overblown nonsense. Doctors in Italy are making wrenching decisions on who to treat and who to leave alone because they’re too far gone and don’t have the resources to save.

    7
  3. Robert C says:

    CDC estimates 20-50K influenza deaths in US through Feb.
    Keep it in perspective.

    3
  4. MarkedMan says:

    @Teve: Every other country is doing it for free. And treatment. Thank the Republican Party for the mess we have here.

    2
  5. Kathy says:

    I thought America’s Rock Hudson moment came when Magic Johnson announced he had AIDS.

    6
  6. Slugger says:

    Just like the flu:
    https://twitter.com/pulte/status/1236800069652885504
    Here’s a story from a young, healthy guy.

    1
  7. Robert C says:

    @Slugger:
    Per CDC, 136 pediatric deaths from influenza 2019-20.
    Keep it in perspective.

    2
  8. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy: Magic’s announcement came years later.

    1
  9. Neil J Hudelson says:

    @Robert C:

    That’s their estimate for total deaths for the entire flu season thus far, which starts around October.

    Coronavirus hit our shores 2 weeks ago.

    Influenza’s contagion rate is 3-11%, per the CDC. COVID19 is 66%, or somewhere between 6x and 22x worse.

    Flu has a mortality rate of about 0.1%. Coronavirus is now hovering around 3%, or about 30x worse.

    To my knowledge, the common flu has not shut down entire nations’ medical systems and forced doctors to triage who gets ventilators. COVID19 does.

    Keep it in perspective.

    20
  10. Robert C says:

    @Neil J Hudelson:
    COVID likely circulating for 4-6 weeks.
    Mortality estimates 3% almost certainly too high. Will probably settle near .6 to 1. The virus isn’t particularly virulent. It just has novel proteins human immune systems have never seen. There is an air of hysteria.

    1
  11. Teve says:

    Don’t worry about being stabbed, cuz you’re more likely to be shot, is some fine logic.

    And the virus is 10-20 x more lethal than the flu.

    11
  12. Jen says:

    Yep, nothing to see here.

    Mortality estimates in Italy are being revised UP in the Lombardy region.

    3
  13. Neil J Hudelson says:

    @Robert C:

    So you are saying it will “settle” to only 6x to 10x the mortality rate of the flu, while still having a contagion rate 22x worse. You’re right, just a buncha panicking panickers panicking over panic.

    (BTW, mortality rates are being revised upwards in Italy right now. Our response thus far looks frighteningly similar to Italy’s. Do you have a source for you claim that the mortality rate will ‘settle?”)

    7
  14. Kari Q says:

    Robert C’s reaction suggests that this is the Rick Hudson moment, and many people will take it more seriously but still assume it doesn’t really matter for them. Our Magic Johnson moment, where concern becomes nearly universal, has not yet occurred.

    4
  15. James Joyner says:

    @Robert C:

    Mortality estimates 3% almost certainly too high. Will probably settle near .6 to 1. The virus isn’t particularly virulent.

    A pseudonymous blog commenter citing up seemingly made-up statistics adds nothing to the debate. At least cite expert sources for your claims.

    12
  16. grumpy realist says:

    @Robert C: Unfortunately, that only holds as long as you have sufficient beds and ventilators to take care of the more severely afflicted victims. Once the number swamps the local hospitals and you’re forced to start practicing triage, the percentage of fatalities goes UP.

    5
  17. DrDaveT says:

    @Robert C:

    COVID likely circulating for 4-6 weeks.

    You have a source for that startling claim? It’s already been circulating at least that long in Hubei, and they still have 15,000 active cases, including a dozen new cases yesterday…

    2
  18. JDM says:

    I agree with your assessment that, “Like Hudson, Hanks has been a major star for decades. One wonders if the news of his infection will make people feel this just a bit more personally?”

    I think Coronavius is going to have a bigger social and economic impact than HIV and AIDS. And with Hanks fabulous portrayal of Capt. Sully, notwithstanding, there will no “Miracle on the Hudson”.

    3
  19. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Robert C:

    Will probably settle near .6 to 1.

    Even if true…and you offer no back-up for this claim…that’s a mortality rate still 6-10 times the Flu.
    Dumbass.

    1
  20. Scott says:

    Some actual statistics:

    Total Closed cases: 73837
    Recoverd/Discharged: 68891
    Deaths: 4946

    Death Rate: 7%

    Source: worldometers. info/coronavirus

    I’ve been following this for about 2 weeks. I would expect this number to fall over time. But it hasn’t. I hope it does.

    2
  21. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Scott:

    The one problem with that analysis is that recover/discharge is a lagging indicator vs. deaths (it takes longer to recover from a disease than to die from it). While that makes less of a difference the further in we go, at the beginning of the pandemic it can make it seem much more deadly than it is.

    To be more accurate, you’d have to know the median recover time and the median time to death and then divide deaths X days ago by recoveries now.

    4
  22. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Good thing for the Hanks family that they were in Australia. Where testing is actually available.

    7
  23. Jen says:

    Italy’s death toll is rising because it cannot handle the surge of cases.

    From the Upshot:

    A crucial thing to understand about the coronavirus threat — and it’s playing out grimly in Italy — is the difference between the total number of people who might get sick and the number who might get sick at the same time. Our country has only 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people. That’s fewer than in Italy (3.2), China (4.3) and South Korea (12.3), all of which have had struggles. More important, there are only so many intensive care beds and ventilators.

    It’s estimated that we have about 45,000 intensive care unit beds in the United States. In a moderate outbreak, about 200,000 Americans would need one.

    So, the fact that covid-19 spreads quickly, has a long incubation period, and can become severe quickly are all important. But the death rate will be affected by Italy’s inability to effectively treat new cases–and we will be worse off here, not just because we have fewer beds, but also because we aren’t testing.

    The whole piece is worth a read.

    3
  24. Scott says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Agree. There is still a lot we don’t know. Just don’t like the trends.

  25. Jen says:

    Mass burial graves in Iran for coronavirus victims are so large they are visible from space, but sure, nothing to see here.

  26. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    To echo Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” the price of healthcare and lack of access to insurance, will obscure the numbers and let poor people have a dignified death quietly at home.

    I think some guy named Jesus once said something about doing for the least of his brethren or something, but I guess that’s not PC Christianity any more.

    5
  27. DrDaveT says:

    @Jen:

    A crucial thing to understand about the coronavirus threat — and it’s playing out grimly in Italy — is the difference between the total number of people who might get sick and the number who might get sick at the same time.

    This. Also, don’t forget the secondary effects — in northern Italy right now, nobody is getting heart valve surgery or kidney transplants or hip replacements or any other kind of non-urgent treatment, because the medical staff are wholly consumed with treating critical COVID-19 patients. That’s not sustainable either.

    5
  28. DrDaveT says:

    @Scott:

    I’ve been following this for about 2 weeks. I would expect this number to fall over time.

    I’ve been tracking the same thing since January, by region. The time series in each new location has a typical shape*, with an initial peak of high mortality that tails off over time. In the first-infected regions of China, cumulative mortality among resolved cases is still over 5% even now. That doesn’t reflect mild cases that were never identified, but there are not going to be 10 of those for every identified case in Hubei, given the level of testing that has been going on there.

    *Probably a Rayleigh curve, if you’re into that sort of thing.

    2