On Sunday’s new Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the host tries to quell misinformation about the coronavirus.
Referencing the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s statement, he starts from a sobering premise, saying, “It spreading here [in the United States] is not a question of if, but when.” As 91 cases have emerged in the U.S., according to CNN, a newsreel shows the bizarre questions some Americans have about COVID-19—like, “Can I get coronavirus from a package being delivered from China?” and whether “gargling with bleach or taking steroids” will protect from the disease—Oliver uses his platform to communicate effectively about the virus that has caused upwards of 3,000 deaths worldwide and created global panic.
To lighten the mood, the host adds, “There’s only one infectious disease that two thirds of the world should be getting right now, and that’s Adam Driver fever. Shatter my knees, you fuckable redwood!”
Oliver pairs his characteristic wry humor with seriousness, highlighting how concerning the coronavirus’ mortality rate, 2%, really is: “A 2% mortality rate, if true, would be about 20 times higher than the seasonal flu. And while the good news is around 80% of those who get this virus have mild symptoms, the bad news is, that means they are more likely to spread it without even realizing.” The disease has killed “three times as many people” as the SARS and MERS epidemics.
For Oliver, distrust in government officials contributes to misinformation. He says, “In Iran, a government spokesperson attempted to reassure people that the virus was under control while the Deputy Health Minister standing next to him started mopping away fever sweat like an Alabama preacher,” a man who was later confirmed to have the coronavirus. Oliver adds, “the Iranian people now trust their government so little, they think he was staging the whole thing,” and plays a clip from BBC News in which a commentator says that some people think that the official will emerge in a few days and say that he has recovered in order to reassure people that it’s “not serious.”
The Last Week Tonight host then points out an unusual press conference in which Trump attempted to assuage coronavirus fears, but ended up causing even more confusion. After Trump said that that Pence will be “in charge” of managing the spread of the coronavirus in the United States, a reporter asked the president to clarify whether Alex Azar, the current Secretary of Health and Human Services, was being replaced. Trump walked out of the room as Azar tried explaining that he is still “chairman of the task force.”
Oliver ends the segment on a lighter note, showing a Vietnamese coronavirus PSA that has gone viral, even inspiring a TikTok dance challenge.
Watch the segment below.