In early March, many streaming platforms saw a spike in viewership for shows such as Netflix’s Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak and the 2011 movie Contagion. The movie shows the consequences of a pandemic caused by the spread of an airborne virus unknowingly spread by patient zero, Gwyneth Paltrow, that kills patients within days of infection.
Oh, and a million memes were born as diligent hand washing and social distancing began in earnest.
Now as the coronavirus pandemic has infected hundreds of thousands of people around the world and continues to spread, many have turned to movies and series like these for an idea of how experts work and an understanding of how the outbreak started to end the crisis — not to mention, how they can cope during social isolation.
So while they have the world’s attention during the coronavirus pandemic, the cast from Contagion, including Matt Damon and Kate Winslet, created a series of PSAs filmed at their homes in partnership with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
The series aims to educate viewers on the coronavirus spread and how they can remain vigilant in order to protect themselves and those around them.
In his video, Matt Damon, who plays a character who is immune to the virus in Contagion, discusses the importance of social distancing and clarifies that unlike his character, he is not immune to the coronavirus.
“I have no reason to believe that I’m immune to COVID-19. And neither do you, no matter how young you are,” says Damon.
In her at-home PSA, Kate Winslet, who plays an epidemiologist in Contagion, talks about the most important lesson she learned while spending time with the best public health professionals in the world: the importance of washing your hands.
“Wash your hands like your life depends on it,” Winslet says before demonstrating the most effective hand-washing method, “because right now, in particular, it just might.”
The Contagion filmmakers’ goal was to create a movie that demonstrated the outcome of not preparing for a large-scale outbreak in the hopes it would urge lawmakers and leaders to prepare and potentially stop a pandemic. The film also demonstrates the strength of humanity and the resilience of the human spirit in times of crisis, showing the best way to deal with the emotional toll of a worldwide crisis. The current pandemic is a very serious situation, but there is still so much hope to hold on to, and these films bring everyone together to remind us of that.
The filmmakers and cast are all doing their part to keep the public informed and encourage good public health practices in order to save lives and slow the virus’ spread, but also to remind us that there is a light at the end of this tunnel.