All the way back on March 13, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, was Stephen Colbert’s last guest in the Ed Sullivan Theater before The Late Show was forced to shut down production. Even then, Gupta knew that President Donald Trump had “failed” to protect the American people from COVID-19.
More than seven months later, Colbert is still performing his show without an audience, and on Tuesday night he hosted Gupta for a remote interview about the state of the pandemic.
After agreeing with the host that the United States “shanked” its response to the coronavirus compared to the rest of the world, Gupta shared his thoughts on the Trump administration’s new claim that the president can count “ending the COVID-19 pandemic” among his first-term accomplishments.
Noting that at the same time White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has now admitted that the administration has no plans to “control” the spread of the virus, Colbert asked, “Your reaction as a medical professional to the idea that the president has stopped the coronavirus pandemic?”
“That’s in the ‘Mission Accomplished’ box, huh?” Gupta responded, referring to former President George W. Bush’s infamous banner from the beginning of the Iraq War. After listing the horrifying statistics, including the projection that 200,000 more Americans could die in the coming months, Gupta said “we’re nowhere near” the end.
“The thing that’s frustrating, I think, Stephen, is that there’s been this sense that we surrendered, this whole waving the white flag, and I think it’s even worse than that in the sense we didn’t even just surrender,” Gupta continued. “We kind of opened the door for the virus and said, ‘Come on in.’ It was this herd immunity idea, just let people get infected.”
As for the hopes for a vaccine in the near future, Gupta advised Americans to keep their expectations low. “I mean, if we’re talking about vaccinating the world, Stephen, this will be one of the largest vaccination projects we have ever seen,” he said.
Even if there’s a vaccine developed by the end of this year, “it’s not going to flip a switch,” Gupta said. “It’s not here and it’s not going to do what people think it’s going to do.”