HomeHealth Care NewsNotables Stricken by COVID-19, Most Recovering

Notables Stricken by COVID-19, Most Recovering

From Hollywood and opera houses to the halls of Congress, state houses, and even 10 Downing Street, the COVID-19 pandemic has left its mark on people of prominence around the world, in addition to President Trump.

And like the mere mortals far from the limelight who were forced to contend with the novel coronavirus, most of the notables emerged victorious from their ordeal. Each notable has his or her own story to tell.

Below is a short list of some big names and how they fared against COVID-19.

Political Leaders

Of political leaders, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is probably the most prominent to be stricken by COVID-19 and to recover.

The flamboyant and, according to media reports, hard-drinking PM tested positive for COVID-19 on March 27 and was admitted to St. Thomas Hospital in London on April 5. One day later he was moved to an intensive care unit, where he remained for four days before being released from the hospital on April 12. After recuperating at Chequers, Johnson, age 56, was back on the job by April 26.

Michigan State Rep. Karen Whitsett (D) is not an internationally recognized name, but her experience with COVID-19 is distinct. Whitsett’s illness (diagnosed in March) and speedy recovery spilled over into the political arena. After the Detroit lawmaker thanked President Trump for recommending hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to treat her case of COVID-19 and attended a White House meeting at which she said her condition went from “0 to 100” after taking HCQ, she was censured by fellow Democrats and rebuked by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The 13th Congressional District Democratic Party Organization accused her of spreading misinformation. Gov. Whitmer weighed in with an April 19 text message saying she was “just disappointed you’d take your theories public without seeking to get answers first.” Whitsett countered by suing Whitmer and the party organization, claiming violation of free speech and defamation.

Before testing positive for COVID-19, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R) Texas was also known as a mask-skeptic. As he prepared to join President Trump aboard Air Force One for a July 29 flight to the Lone Star State, Gohmert tested positive during routine screening at the White House.

Gohmert, who had only recently started wearing a mask, quickly cast suspicion on what could have brought on the infection.

“I can’t help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place, if I might have put some germs, some of the virus on the mask and breathed it in,” Gohmert told a Texas radio station.

News of the outspoken 66-year-old lawmaker’s infection spread rapidly on Capitol Hill.  Over a dozen of his colleagues, many of them ardent mask wearers, have tested positive. As for Gohmert, by mid-August, he had made a full recovery, which he attributed to vitamin supplements and HCQ, and announced plans to donate his plasma to help other patients.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, not only became well-known as a presidential candidate but as a physician. In late March, Paul, age 57, became the first member of Congress to announce he had been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. On April 7, Paul said he had successfully recovered from his bout with COVID-19 and was volunteering at a hospital helping patients stricken with the disease.  After his recovery, Paul defended his refusal to wear a mask.

“I have immunity, I’ve already had the virus, so I can’t get it again and I can’t give it to anybody,” Paul told reporters. “So of all the people you’ll meet here, I’m about the only safe person in Washington.”

In July, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, age 54, tested positive for the novel coronavirus and showed mild symptoms. O’Brien spent several days working from home before returning to the White House on August 4.

O’Brien “has already met with the president who warmly welcomed him back to the West Wing,” spokesman John Ullyot said in a statement.  “He has been cleared by doctors after two negative tests for the virus, and has been asymptomatic for over a week.”

Royalty provided no protection against COVID-19 for Prince Charles. The heir to the British throne, age 71, self-isolated after testing positive in March and only experienced mild symptoms.  Prince Charles said he “got away with it quite lightly.” The UK has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. Prince Charles blamed COVID-19, along with SARS and EBOLA, on “loss of biodiversity,” but provided no details.

Other political notables who are recovering from COVID-19 include Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.

However, not all have recovered from the virus. Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and 2012 candidate for the Republican presidential nomination Herman Cain tested positive on June 29. Cain, who had survived a 2006 diagnosis of stage IV colon cancer, died of COVID–19 on July 30 at the age of 74.

Entertainment and Sports Figures

The entertainment and sports world, given their size, also reported a number of COVID-19 cases.

Actor Tom Hanks, age 64, was one of the first entertainment figures to tell the world about his COVID-19 infection. The star of “Forrest Gump,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” and countless other movies tested positive in late March (along with his wife, Rita Wilson), while in Australia, where the actor did pre-production work on an Elvis Pressley biopic.

The couple was quarantined in an Australian hospital for three days before they returned to Los Angeles. Wilson’s symptoms, which included aches, high fever, and a loss of taste and smell, were more severe than her husband’s. Hanks, who has type 2 diabetes, and Wilson recovered by mid-April, and each donated blood to help other patients.

The 79-year-old Spanish tenor-turned-baritone, Placido Domingo, was stricken with COVID-19 in March and was considered at high risk because of his age.  But Domingo, who has a home in Acapulco, was treated in a Mexican hospital and recovered quickly, telling people on Facebook in late March he was feeling “fine.”

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus and his wife of the same age recovered from COVID-19, despite being 80 years old.

“I had a little sore throat for about four, five days, a cough that lasted about three weeks,” Nicklaus was quoted as saying by MLive, July 29.


Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D., (bcohen@nationalcenter.org) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.

Bonner R Cohen
Bonner R Cohen
Bonner R. Cohen is a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a position he has held since 2002.


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