Six people at CBS News have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, including a correspondent stationed in Italy, as US media organizations on Monday fought against the pandemic they are charged with describing.
Five employees with the virus work in CBS’ New York offices, where most of its journalists were ordered to stay away as a result.
“Everyone works remotely unless specifically requested to come in,” CBS News president Susan Zirinsky said in a memo to her staff.
ABC News on Monday said that a journalist who worked on the network’s coverage team of the outbreak in Seattle had tested positive for coronavirus.
The person, who works in ABC’s Los Angeles bureau, has been isolated since last week and has exhibited only mild symptoms.
The network said that it has told its Seattle coverage team to stay home and has closed its Los Angeles bureau for a thorough cleaning.
Meanwhile, at NBC, an employee who worked on the Today show’s third hour tested positive, forcing the show’s anchors, Craig Melvin and Al Roker, and others who came into contact with the person to be ordered to isolate in their homes as a result.
The Today show’s 7am anchors, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, went to work, but kept their distance.
They sat at least 1m apart as the show opened on Monday, saying that they were setting an example by following guidelines for “social distancing.”
“It does matter,” Kotb said. “We’re practicing that at home, we’re practicing that with our children and we want to practice that at work, because it’s important.”
It was a subtle trend throughout the TV world.
The white couch on Fox News Channel’s Outnumbered, typically crowded with four women and one man, held only Harris Faulkner and Melissa Francis on Monday. The other guests, Nicole Saphier, David Webb and Jessica Tarlov, were stationed in different studios.
CBS News correspondent Seth Doane, who lives in Rome, on Monday said that he was one of the network’s employees to test positive.
Italy is one of the worst-hit countries in the world.
“For the most part, I feel OK,” Doane said in an interview on CBS This Morning.
However, he said that he coughed enough to worry people around him, had a slight fever and felt pressure in his chest, so he chose to get tested.
He said that he has felt worse in the past with colds and the flu.
Most people who get COVID-19 have only mild or moderate symptoms, similar to what Doane described. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.
It was a point Doane wanted to illustrate: Symptoms can be so mild that people can spread the disease while not even realizing they have it.
“The psychological part for me has been worse than the physical part,” Doane said, referring to how he has had to call people that he has been in contact with.
The cases in CBS’ New York studios have had cascading effects. New York’s WCBS-TV broadcasts from there, so late last week New York’s local news was delivered by anchors in a Los Angeles studio.
The syndicated Inside Edition also airs from there and late last week Deborah Norville did the show from her kitchen at home.
John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight tapes in a studio in the New York complex, and there were also people in the HBO show’s office that tested positive. So Oliver on Sunday night taped a show without an audience from a studio where he sat in front of a white backdrop.
His abbreviated show was part comedy, part social commentary and part service journalism. He went through specific instructions of what viewers could do to avoid the coronavirus and implored viewers to be careful about e-mailing or posting false information.
“We’re going to need to look out for one another,” Oliver said.
With society shutting down and many Americans housebound for an undetermined length of time, there are preliminary signs that it might boost TV audiences, particularly for news.
Over the past two weeks, Fox News has averaged 3.57 million viewers in prime time, up 40 percent from the same two-week period a year ago. MSNBC had 2.44 million, up 13 percent, and CNN had 1.63 million, up 72 percent, Nielsen Media Research said.
About 10.83 million people watched Sunday night’s US Democratic presidential primary debate between former US vice president Joe Biden and US Senator Bernie Sanders on CNN, Nielsen said.
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