Stephen Colbert’s first and only guest on his first night without a studio audience Thursday night was someone who he hoped might be able to give his viewers some much needed answers.
And his first big question for CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta was, “How worried should we be?”
“I think for the majority of people, this is not going to be something that’s going to make them tremendously ill, this coronavirus,” Gupta replied, encouragingly. “It might make them sick for a few days, they’re likely to recover.” Asked how to find the “blurry line” between “caution and panic,” he said, “I don’t think it ever should cross into panic because panic doesn’t serve any purposes.”
But at the same time, he said he does “worry” about the “certain population” of people who are most at risk.
“It is elderly people and people who have pre-existing conditions like heart disease,” Gupta explained. “For them, their immune system won’t be able to fight this virus as well so the lungs won’t be able to stay as pliable and they can eventually develop what’s called respiratory distress and they need to be on a breathing machine, they need to be supported while the body tries to fight off the virus.”
Gupta said he’s “stunned” by the “really tough” decisions that some hospitals are going to be forced to make. “Is that alarming? Yes, it should be alarming,” he said. “Can it be prevented? Absolutely. Should we have been preparing for the last six weeks? For sure. Did we? Doesn’t seem like it. If I get panicked, it’s not because of the virus, it’s because of our response thus far to things.”
That response came into greater focus in their second segment when Colbert brought up President Donald Trump’s promise last week at the CDC that anyone who wants to get tested for the coronavirus can get tested. “Is that true or false, Sanjay Gupta?” he asked.
“It’s false. And it’s sad,” Gupta replied. “We failed with regard to testing in this country.” He added, “I feel like I have been screaming into the abyss, and, frankly, you get a lot of pushback on social media saying, ‘you’re fear mongering, why are you being so critical?’” But without proper testing, he said, “We don’t know what we’re dealing with in this country.”
Noting that the total number of cases have jumped from 15 to over 1,000, Gupta said he believes that’s a “gross underestimate of what’s actually happening here.”