Talk shows take ‘unprecedented’ step
Some of America's most popular talk shows have ditched their live audiences as the United States quickly wakes up to the coronavirus threat.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The View, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers have all said they will no longer film with a studio audience in a bid to help stop the spread of the deadly COVID-19 disease.
"To everyone who was looking forward to coming, I'm so sorry. But I'm doing this for the health of my fans, my staff and my crew," Degeneres tweeted on Thursday.
I have some news. For now, I’ll be shooting my show with no studio audience. To everyone who was looking forward to coming, I'm so sorry. But I’m doing this for the health of my fans, my staff & my crew. (It has nothing to do with a warrant for my arrest in the state of Florida.)— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 12, 2020
Late Night with Seth Meyers issued a similar statement on Instagram.
"The safety of our guests and employees is our top priority … Per guidance from New York City officials, we hope to do our part to help to decrease the rate of transmission in our communities," it said.
"We will continue filming on our regular schedule, and currently, there will be no impact on air dates."
"This is unprecedented," Whoopi Goldberg said, facing rows of empty seats on Wednesday's episode of The View.
More than 1,300 cases of the COVID-19 disease have been confirmed across the US and 38 people have died since it was first detected in China in December.
But President Donald Trump spent several weeks downplaying the threat, telling reporters at a White House briefing last month that the risk of an outbreak remained very low.
"Mr President, the CDC said yesterday that they believe it's inevitable that the virus will spread in the United States, and it's not a question of 'if' but 'when'. Do you agree with that assessment?" one reporter asked.
"Well, I don't think it's inevitable," he said.
Then on Monday he tweeted: "Last year 37,000 Americans died from the common flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life and the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!"
But the rhetoric swiftly changed on Wednesday when Mr Trump announced a sweeping ban on all travel from Europe to the United States.
"We are marshalling the full power of the federal government and the private sector to protect the American people," he said in an Oval Office address.
"To keep new cases from entering our shores we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days."
'START USING YOUR BRAIN'
Mr Trump's announcement came as schools closed, communities cancelled public events, the NBA season was suspended, and actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson announced they were infected in Australia.
The US Capitol will also be closed to the public until April to help stop the spread of the virus, officials said on Thursday, while New York mayor Bill de Blasio has warned he will be introducing a slew of unprecedented measures this week.
The country's lethargic response prompted this angry tweet from American radio personality and TV presenter, Charlamagne Tha God.
"115,000 coronavirus cases worldwide. 4,200 people killed and some Americans didn't think s*** was real until Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, and the NBA were hit with it," he said.
"Start using your own brain and stop waiting until celebrities are impacted to take things serious."
- With wires