Husband of Arizona Woman Who Mistakenly Invited Teen to Thanksgiving Dies of COVID-19

By Jessica Swarner

April 9, 2020

As coronavirus-related deaths continue to rise in Arizona, the state has learned a local celebrity was among them. 

Arizona reached 3,018 coronavirus cases Thursday, while deaths increased to 89, according to the state’s health department

Maricopa County had 1,689 cases, while Pima hit 512 cases. Navajo had 286, Coconino had 210, and Pinal had 137. The remaining counties each had fewer than 100 cases. 

Between the state’s public lab and commercial labs, the total amount of tests administered in Arizona was up to 37,178. 

Grandfather From Heart-Warming Thanksgiving Story Dies of COVID-19

Lonnie Dench, the husband of the woman who accidentally invited 17-year-old Jamal Hinton to Thanksgiving dinner in 2016, died Sunday from complications related to COVID-19. 

About three and a half years ago, Wanda Dench sent out a text message to her family members inviting them to Thanksgiving dinner. But one of those numbers was wrong, and she ended up sending an accidental invite to Hinton. When he jokingly said he would still come, Wanda Dench said the invitation stood. 

The story of the new friends’ bond became national news. Hinton became a regular Thanksgiving guest at the Denches’, and many people looked forward to seeing photos of them together each year. Last year, Hinton and his girlfriend Mikaela had the Denches over to their home for the holiday. 

Hinton had tweeted earlier this month that Lonnie Dench was fighting pneumonia and the coronavirus. 

“As some of you may have already found out tonight Lonnie did not make it … he passed away Sunday morning,” Hinton tweeted Wednesday. “But Wanda told me all the love and support he was receiving put a huge smile on his face so I thank every single one of you guys for that!”

Hinton has also said Wanda Dench was sick with COVID-19, but she later clarified she had not been tested for the disease, according to NBC News

State Working To Bring More Internet And More Meals to Residents

Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman on Wednesday announced a drive to collect wireless internet hotspots that will be given out to students who do not have internet access at home. 

The state will start by distributing 200 already collected hotspots to students whose school gave them a computer, but they are unable to use it because they don’t have internet. 

RELATED: What Arizona Is Doing to Expand Food Access, Health Care, And Child Care During Coronavirus

According to the governor’s office, the state is paying for the internet service, and it will filter out any inappropriate content. 

“Many students may have access to laptops or tablets without adequate internet connection,” Hoffman said in a press release. “That’s why we’re grateful to have this partnership in place to get hotspots to students who need them — and there are many students who need them. We encourage all of our nonprofit and private sector partners to join this effort to help make a big impact for students across our state.”

To donate, see more information here

Gov. Ducey also announced Wednesday that nearly $10 million in federal funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program. The program provides free food to people with low incomes, including seniors. 

“At a time when many Arizonans are out of work or underemployed due to COVID-19, these dollars will help ensure low-income individuals, families and seniors have access to nutritional meals,” the governor said in a press release. “We know there are many people out there needing help due to no fault of their own. We’re going to continue doing all we can to stretch the social safety net and make sure those needing assistance have access to it.”

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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