A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
CNN’s Chris Cuomo has become the most visible face of the coronavirus in the United States by giving daily updates about his condition on TV, social media and, on Thursday, at his brother’s New York state press briefing.
Other television stars (Andy Cohen) and household names (Tom Hanks) have contracted the virus… there are more than I can list at this point… but Cuomo stands out because he is giving frequent updates to an audience of millions of people.
He began to anchor from home on Monday, and he was formally diagnosed on Tuesday. On Thursday night his 9 p.m. program was pre-empted for CNN’s weekly town hall about the virus, so he joined from his home for a check-up. “I’m doing well. The beast comes at night,” he told Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “As we know the health care workers have taken to call the virus ‘the beast.’ I understand why. My fever has gone up a couple of degrees in like the last 30 minutes. Nights are tough, and I’ve learned something that I didn’t know before: It is responsible journalism to say that 80% of people who get this, statistically, wind up okay, meaning they don’t get a hospital, they get through it. It is not humanly responsible, though, from an ethical perspective. Now that I am one of the anointed and these people reach out to me – you SUFFER when you have this at home, unless you are ridiculously lucky, statistically, and maybe karmically as well.”
Cuomo said he has lost 13 pounds in the past three days. “I’m just sweating it out and it’s the sickness,” he said. Chicken soup has helped. B.S. on the internet hasn’t helped. “Fake pills, fake tonics… I think we have to be very careful about people preying on desperation,” he said.
“Incapable of not working”
Just “for the record,” Gupta said to Cuomo, “we had suggested you not work right now. I mean, you are incapable of not working and talking about this but just for the record, we did suggest that.”
I respect the suggestion, but I respect the work ethic more! Cuomo said, “In between the hits and in between when I’m doing the show, I’m a waste. I sleep probably 10 hours of the day if I can, in and out. I try to walk and do these breathing exercises because I’m petrified of getting pneumonia.” His main message on Thursday night: “It’s not a cakewalk, but we can get through it.”
“We’re telling ourselves these lies about testing”
One more note from Cuomo’s comments on the town hall – because this can’t be said enough – the testing #’s are still so far from complete.
More of CNN's coronavirus coverage
“When I do have a couple of good hours, I’m still trying to do help with procurement for the state [of New York] because they really are fighting state by state, which is so stupid, to get the equipment that they need,” Cuomo said. “So, I don’t know how I got it and most people don’t, Anderson, and we are so far behind on testing. We’re telling ourselves these lies about testing. We’re nowhere near where we need to be.”
“The Cuomo show”
That’s what the AP’s David Bauder calls it: “With all their familial love and drama, the Cuomo brothers — Andrew during the daytime, Chris at night — have become compelling figures in the plague-driven landscape of American television…”
Chris Cuomo’s cameo during Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Thursday press briefing was the latest example of this. “I do believe this is going to be a great public service in an ironic way… You living it, showing it… doing the show, reporting on how you feel… I think it demystifies this,” the governor said. “It takes a lot of the unknown out of the equation. And I know it’s a terrible unfortunate circumstance for you, but think about it from a journalistic point of view, a public service point of view. You are answering questions for millions of Americans.”