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Stars of ‘Contagion’ reunite to offer coronavirus advice

Laurence Fishburne is one of the stars of “Contagion” who has filmed PSAs about the coronavirus pandemic. (Jordan Strauss / Associated Press)
Laurence Fishburne is one of the stars of “Contagion” who has filmed PSAs about the coronavirus pandemic. (Jordan Strauss / Associated Press)
By Mark Kennedy Associated Press

NEW YORK – The stars of the 2011 virus thriller “Contagion” – a prescient film these days – have reunited for a series of public service announcements to warn about COVID-19.

Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle have teamed up with scientists from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health to offer four individual homemade videos with advice and a message of unity.

“Wash your hands like your life depends on it,” Winslet says in her PSA. “Because right now, in particular, it just might.”

Ehle stresses that the coronavirus is novel, meaning no one is immune. “Every single one of us, regardless of age or ethnicity, is at risk of getting it,” she says.

“Contagion,” directed by Steven Soderbergh, explores a scenario in which a lethal and fast-moving influenza is spreading around the world. Damon in his video notes that it is “creeping its way up the charts on iTunes, for obvious reasons.”

Damon, who in the film played a character who was immune to the hypothetical virus, also stresses listening to experts and staying six feet apart. “That was a movie. This is real life,” he says. “I have no reason to believe that I’m immune to COVID-19. And neither do you.”

Fishburne appeals to helping medical staff on the front line. “If we can slow this thing down, it will give our doctors and our nurses in our hospitals a fighting chance to help us all get through this thing together,” he says.

The PSAs were written by the film’s screenwriter, Scott Z. Burns, under the guidance and with the input of the same medical experts who worked on the movie. They were all shot by the actors themselves, with Winslet’s husband helping film her video.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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