Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson and other celebrities with the coronavirus: Here's why they make pandemic feel 'more real'

Raechal Shewfelt
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

Americans already knew the coronavirus was a huge issue with global implications, but the revelation Wednesday that beloved actor Tom Hanks and his actress wife, Rita Wilson, have tested positive for the pandemic particularly affected people who have watched their movies for decades.

As journalist Ann Curry put it on Twitter, “OK, now we all have someone we love diagnosed with #coronavirus.”

Human behavior expert Patrick Wanis explains that the news about Hanks — and any other celebrity — can truly affect us, because we feel like we’re close to them. We have a one-sided relationship with him, keeping up with his family and his milestones, just like we do with our friends.

“Tom Hanks is a dearly loved and respected actor and celebrity, and based on who he is on an off camera, we feel very close to him, and we can generally relate to him,” Wanis tells Yahoo Entertainment. “Therefore, the news that he has Coronavirus makes the virus much more real to each of us, and shatters our perception that celebrities are completely devoid of or immune to the same pains that we all experience. The fact that a celebrity can also contract the virus drives home the reality that no one is truly protected or exempt from a virus that is now labeled as pandemic.”

Thankfully, Hanks and Wilson’s adult children reassured fans Thursday that their parents are “doing well,” under the circumstances, and they are expected to “make a full recovery.”

Another actor, Matthew Broderick, has a close connection to a coronavirus patient: his sister, Janet Broderick, on Thursday shared with the church congregation she leads that she’s been diagnosed with the virus.

In the sports world, the NBA suspended its season after two star players on the Utah Jazz, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, tested positive.

For the latest news on the evolving coronavirus outbreak, follow along here. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC and WHO’s resource guides.

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