Viral Grandma Who Invited Stranger to Thanksgiving Has Tested Positive for Coronavirus

Wanda Dench, an Arizona woman who went viral on Twitter in 2016, has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 — the coronavirus. Years ago, Dench found Internet fame when she accidentally invited then-teenage Jamal Hinton to her Thanksgiving dinner. Now, it is Hinton who is keeping followers up to date on Dench's condition.

Dench is known to some simply as the "Thanksgiving Grandma" because of a 2016 text conversation with Hinton. In it, she thought she was texting her own grandchild, but it turned out to be Hinton, who joined her for Thanksgiving anyway. The two have remained friends ever since — so much so that it was Hinton who had to inform followers this weekend that Dench and her husband, Lonnie both tested positive for the coronavirus.

"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 tweeted. "Please send words of love and encouragement their way."

Shortly after the tweet went up on Friday, Hinton posted a video on YouTube giving more details. He spoke directly to the camera, explaining that Lonnie is in isolation in the hospital, but can communicate with Wanda and others through his cell phone. He thanks their followers for supporting them through this frightening time.

"Lonnie is in the hospital. He cannot have visitors currently because of course COVID-19 and pneumonia on top of that," Hinton said. "Thank you for all the love and support that you guys are giving him."

He then explained that Wanda Dench is stuck home alone, also fighting the symptoms of coronavirus. He admitted that both of his friends are scared, and he himself was clearly shaken as well.

"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's updates on Dench and Lonnie had many people feeling emotional, including some who had not kept up with the odd group since their initial viral post in 2016. Some were learning that Hinton and Dench were still friends at the same time they were learning that Dench and her husband are sick. The perfect storm of emotions had many people posting tearful reactions online.

In fact, Hinton and Dench have continued to celebrate Thanksgiving together ever since 2016. Just this past November, the Denches joined Hinton and his girlfriend, Mikaela at her family's house for thanksgiving.

"I am excited to go to her aunt's house and meet everybody and not have to cook," Dench joked in an interview with The Today Show at the time. In that same interview, Hinton admitted that what started as a bit of a joke has grown into a real bond over the years.


"The first dinner, I don't think we really got to talk that much, because it was so much going on at the moment," he recalled. "But after that, when we actually got to sit down and have dinner and get to know each other, it was actually pretty great."