This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Canada, which closed in 2021.

Gwyneth Paltrow Makes 'Contagion' Joke About Coronavirus While On Airplane

Repeat after me: face masks are not an effective tool in the fight against coronavirus.

There are certain fundamental truths of our universe. The sun rises in the east, we can always count on death and taxes, and Gwyneth Paltrow is gonna Gwyneth Paltrow.

Her specific brand of being a wealthy, out-of-touch celebrity who cheekily embraces her own lack of awareness — this time about coronavirus — was on display in a photo she posted to Instagram Wednesday morning.

In a selfie on a plane, the actor and Goop founder wears a heavy-duty mask over her mouth and nose, one that appears to match up perfectly with her eye mask.

“Paranoid? Prudent? Panicked? Placid? Pandemic? Propaganda? Paltrow’s just going to go ahead and sleep with this thing on the plane,” the actress and Goop mogul wrote in her caption.

“I’ve already been in this movie,” she continued, a reference to the 2011 movie “Contagion.” In the drama, Paltrow’s character brings an unknown virus home to the U.S. after a visit to Hong Kong, causing a global pandemic. The movie resurfaced on the iTunes Top 10 chart in January, as coronavirus fears took hold.

Kate Hudson also posted a photo of herself in a face mask while travelling on Wednesday morning, although hers had a much simpler caption.

Even if both women were experiencing genuine fear about the possibility of contracting the illness, the lightness of Paltrow’s post in particular leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Coronavirus likely feels like a distant and implausible risk for a Hollywood star like Paltrow, but the reality is that nearly 2,800 people have died at the time of this post’s publish.

It can be easy for people who haven’t really been up close to the effects of the disease to make light of them, as was the case with several Instagram influencers who came under fire last month for treating the virus like a trend.

Branding consultant Debbie Lu, who splits her time between her hometown of Wuhan and her work in Toronto, told HuffPost Canada last month that she doesn’t understand the lack of compassion for residents of the city, where the vast majority of infections and deaths have occurred.

“Recent times have been marked by natural disasters. The fires in Australia, the earthquake in Turkey. The world has responded by sending help and showing unequivocal support,” she said. “Yet Wuhan doesn’t receive the same compassion. The people dying here are innocent. We deserve the same support as those suffering in natural disasters.”

Watch: Influencers under fire for treating coronavirus like a trend. Story continues after video.

Paltrow’s post also considered the possibility that she was “paranoid,” an apt choice of words. Her wide reach — she has 6.9 million Instagram followers — give her a platform that many critics say make her fear-mongering pretty irresponsible.

This is especially true given that in the majority of cases, face masks don’t actually help.

Because this apparently needs to be repeated, we will: Unless you’re experiencing the symptoms of coronavirus or a similar illness, face masks and paranoia will not help you. If you’re already sick, then yes, a mask can help contain your infection so you don’t spread it to others. People who are regularly caring for sick people can wear masks as a precaution, as well.

But, if you’re healthy and have not recently travelled to mainland China, Health Canada advises against wearing a face mask, because it won’t provide any help and could actually put you at higher risk.

“Wearing a mask when you are not ill and are not at high risk for developing symptoms may give a false sense of security,” the agency said. “Masks can easily become contaminated and need to be changed frequently and fitted properly for them to provide adequate protection.

When people do opt to wear masks, respirator-type masks are far more effective than the disposable masks of the type Hudson was wearing.

With the exceptions of health-care workers, like these two at the Molinette Hospital in Turin, Italty, and people who are exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness, face masks are not recommended.
With the exceptions of health-care workers, like these two at the Molinette Hospital in Turin, Italty, and people who are exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness, face masks are not recommended.

Overall, there are far more effective ways to keep healthy, whether you’re the kind of person who owns a $269 gold facial sculpting bar or not, and they’re all pretty easy and intuitive:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with hot water and soap
  • Cover your mouth with your elbow, not your hand, when you sneeze or cough
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you don’t feel well

Paltrow, of course, is not known for her adherence to science-backed health information. Some of Goop’s most dubious health claims include coffee enemas, getting stung by bees to remove inflammation, and using infrared and mugwort steam to “cleanse” your vagina.

She hasn’t posted an update from Paris yet, but we feel fairly confident that she’ll live to goop another day.

Suggest a correction
This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Canada. Certain site features have been disabled. If you have questions or concerns, please check our FAQ or contact