Viral Grandma Who Accidentally Invited a Stranger to Thanksgiving Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Ashley Boucher
Viral Grandma Who Accidentally Invited a Stranger to Thanksgiving Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Wanda Dench — the Arizona woman who first went viral in 2016 after accidentally inviting a stranger to her Thanksgiving dinner — has tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Jamal Hinton, who became friends with Wanda and her husband Lonnie Dench thanks to a fateful text message, shared the news of her diagnosis on Twitter on Wednesday, revealing that Lonnie has also tested positive for the virus and is in the hospital.

“I am so sad to announce that Wanda and Lonnie both have COVID-19 and that Lonnie is currently in the hospital fighting both COVID and Pneumonia,” Hinton wrote. “please send words of love and encouragement their way.”

“Lonnie is in the hospital. He cannot have visitors currently because of course COVID-19 and pneumonia on top of that,” Hinton shared on Friday in a video update on YouTube, adding that Lonnie has a cell phone and is able to communicate with Wanda and others that way while in isolation.

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“Thank you for all the love and support that you guys are giving him,” Hinton said, explaining that Lonnie was able to see all of the well-wishes on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Wanda is stuck at home by herself as she battles the respiratory virus.

“She is really scared,” Hinton said. “I know that Lonnie is really scared. But I told them both that they’re both strong and that they’re going to pull through with this. I just need your guys’ wishes and prayers to help them do it.”

Hinton and Wanda first connected back in 2016, when she meant to text her grandson, inviting him to dinner. But Wanda’s grandson had changed his number, and the message was sent to Hinton, then 17, instead.

Despite the mix-up, Hinton ended up accepting Wanda’s dinner invitation and the two have been friends ever since — with a new holiday tradition to reunite for their Thanksgiving meal. Last November, they reunited for the fourth year in a row.

Jamal Hinton Lonnie Dench, Wanda Dench, Jamal Hinton

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“It was so unexpected, but she was just so sweet about it,” Hinton previously told PEOPLE. “It was a reminder that there are still some good people left in this world.”

“She is a very sweet lady,” the then-high school student said at the time. “She told me her husband was a veteran and she always invited his friends over for dinner, so she’s used to having a lot of people over. I just got a vibe from her that made me feel at home.”

“I just clicked when I met him and first talked to him,” Dench previously told NBC Nightly News of Hinton. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to get to know this guy.’”

Hinton and the Denches live in Arizona, where there are at least 1,769 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 41 deaths related to the virus as of Friday. Nationwide, there are at least 272,502 confirmed cases and 7,046 deaths.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.