Tom Hanks Talks COVID-19 Experience During ASHP Midyear

Award winning actor Tom Hanks addressed pharmacists during the ASHP Midyear 2020 Clinical Meeting & Exhibition.

Back in March 2020, while abroad in Australia working on a film, Tom Hanks and his wife, actress Rita Wilson, began to feel unwell.

After the pair tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), they spent 3 nights in a hospital and 10 days being “beaten up by the virus,” as Hanks described in the virtual opening session and keynote at the ASHP Midyear 2020 Clinical Meeting & Exhibition, which was held on Monday, December 7.1

However, Hanks explained that despite experiencing “crippling fatigue” and other noticeable physical symptoms, he and his wife were spared from the worst of it.

“We just felt really, really terrible,” the award winning actor said. “…We were the lucky ones, we had symptoms and we got over them.”

During the live interview, Hanks addressed his experience with COVID-19 and conveyed his appreciation for health care workers on the front lines.

Recounting the efforts of Queensland health officials during this time, Hanks described their response to the situation as “commanding”. According to Hanks, once being tested, he and his wife were held in isolation in a hospital ward that “slowly filled up with other [COVID-19] patients.” Health care workers continuously monitored them, checking in about every 3 hours to assess fevers and oxygen levels. Hanks noted how the doctors and nurses on staff, who were constantly making rounds to check on patients, were required to don fresh personal protective equipment before entering into each room.

“These are really dedicated professionals that are experts in what they do…and they are stretched thin,” he said.

Hanks and Wilson were only let go from the hospital once it was deemed they were not a health risk. The couple subsequently quarantined for the next 2 weeks to assure they didn’t spread the virus and remained under lockdown with the rest of the country until the end of April.

“The procedures they put in place were serious,” Hanks said. The couple remained in Australia until lockdown restrictions were lifted and allowed them to return home.

Now back in Australia to resume working on his film, Hanks described life in the country as seemingly normal. “They have tamed it down here so it actually looks like regular life,” he said.

Still, mask wearing and social distancing is commonplace. And although work on his movie has started up again, Hanks indicated there are strict protocols. Hanks also touched on the importance of wearing face masks to curb the spread of the virus.

“The wearing of a mask is as simple as obeying the speed limit in a car…it’s the least you can do in your part in controlling COVID-19,” he said. He acknowledged that many people have grown fatigued to mask wearing and other simple preventive tasks, and commended the health care workers for their patience.

“Anybody who works in a pharmacy, who works in a hospital, who works in a health care system, is going to be dealing with people who just don’t want to do this anymore,” he said. 

Hanks indicated that pharmacists have now taken on the additional role of being psychologists in a sense, as they now must talk individuals into understanding the simple steps for preventing the spread of the virus.

At the end, Hanks once again expressed his appreciation for frontline health care workers.

“Thank you for the work you are doing and for keeping America healthy,” he concluded.

Reference

1. Opening Session and Keynote: A Conversation with Tom Hanks. Presented at: ASHP Midyear 2020 Clinical Meeting & Exhibition; virtual; December 7, 2020.