Rita Wilson Shares How She and Tom Hanks Contracted Coronavirus, "Extreme" Chloroquine Side Effects

CBS This Morning - Gayle King's interview with Rita Wilson Screen shot- Publicity-H 2020
Courtesy of CBS News

The actress and singer offered an update on her and her husband's condition more than a month after they both tested positive, and explained the origins of her "Hip Hop Hooray" remix and how it's being used to raise money for relief efforts.

Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks were two of the first Hollywood stars to reveal publicly that they had tested positive for the coronavirus, sharing their diagnosis over a month ago.

Since then, they have offered numerous updates as they recovered while isolated in Australia, where they had traveled for work, and returned home to the U.S. While Hanks hosted a remote edition of Saturday Night Live just days ago, Wilson spoke to CBS This Morning host Gayle King on Tuesday's edition of the show, opening up about how she contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, as well as what her experience was like while she was sick and how she's trying to help in the fight against the global pandemic.

Wilson said that as she came down with the disease, she was "very tired, extremely achy, felt uncomfortable, didn't want to be touched," had a fever that reached 102 degrees by day nine, got chills and lost her sense of taste and smell.

Hanks, she said, didn't have as high of a fever and didn't lose his sense of taste and smell.

Wilson added that she was given the controversial drug chloroquine, saying she was not sure if it worked or if it was just time for her fever to break, as that's what happened after she was given the drug. Still, she cautioned that she experienced "extreme side effects" after taking chloroquine including being "completely nauseous," having vertigo, and her muscles becoming very weak.

"I think people have to be very considerate about that drug," Wilson said. "We don't really know if it's helpful in this case."

Chloroquine, typically prescribed to treat malaria, and a newer, similar drug, hydroxychloroquine, have been touted by President Trump and others as effective treatments against the virus based on some small, early tests. But medical experts have cautioned that more scientific evidence is needed, and they have pointed to potentially dangerous side effects of the medicine. Indeed, on Monday, scientists in Brazil stopped a chloroquine study after heart-rhythm problems developed in one-quarter of people given the higher of two doses being tested.

As for how she and Hanks contracted the virus, Wilson said they were told it was from someone they were both exposed to at the same time, but they don't know where or when that happened. None of their close family contacts or members of their work team tested positive.

Australian officials said shortly after the pair were diagnosed that Hanks and Wilson were believed to have contracted the coronavirus in the U.S. or in transit from there as, at the time, all new reported infections were non-contact cases. The pair had been in Australia for at least a week prior to their diagnosis. Hanks was there to film Baz Luhrmann's Elvis Presley film for Warner Bros., production on which has since been suspended, and Wilson accompanied him, performing concerts featuring songs from her new album, Halfway to Home.

When Hanks and Wilson were diagnosed, there were only 130 cases in Australia. The pair were in isolation for 14 days in a hospital on the Gold Coast before returning to the U.S., where they continued social distancing and sheltering in place.

Wilson said she and Hanks have been told that they are now immune. They have donated blood as part of a study and are waiting to hear back as to whether their antibodies can be helpful in developing a vaccine. They are also waiting to hear if they can donate plasma.

As she was recovering, a video Wilson made of her rapping Naughty by Nature's "Hip Hop Hooray" became popular online. She told King that she had to learn the song — a monthlong experience that involved consulting the urban slang dictionary — for a role in the movie Boy Genius, and while she was in quarantine she wanted to try performing it as a "brain exercise" to see if she remembered the lyrics. Naughty by Nature were among the fans of her rendition, and they teamed up with Wilson for a remix. The streaming proceeds will go toward MusiCares' COVID-19 relief fund.

King said after the interview that Wilson told her she and Hanks now feel "completely normal."