After two weeks away from her nightly MSNBC show, Rachel Maddow returned on Thursday night in a live-feed broadcast from her living room. As the show began, an emotional Maddow told viewers the reason behind her previously unexplained absence.
Her partner of 21 years, the artist and photographer Susan Mikula, tested positive for the novel coronavirus almost two weeks ago and then became seriously ill.
“At one point, we really thought there was a possibility that it might kill her,” Maddow said. “That’s why I’ve been away.”
In telling her family’s own struggle with covid-19, Maddow pleaded with viewers to stay home for Thanksgiving and reconsider any activities that might put them at risk of catching the coronavirus or spreading it to others.
“Don’t get this thing. Do whatever you can to keep from getting it,” she said. “For Thanksgiving next week, you really are going to have to just have it at home without people coming over. And yeah, it’s going to suck, but that’s going to suck so much less than you or somebody in your family getting this and getting sick. Trust me.”
Maddow: Don't get this thing. Do whatever you can to keep from getting it.
Rachel Maddow reveals that her partner, Susan, tested positive for Covid-19 and is still recovering, and implores viewers to consider their loved ones when they calculate their own Covid-19 risk. pic.twitter.com/oUz2DBLG63
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) November 20, 2020
Public health experts have also encouraged people to stay home for Thanksgiving instead of traveling to see extended family and gathering for large dinners – a plea the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially joined on Thursday. For those who decide to celebrate despite the risk, doctors recommend quarantining and getting tested before the holiday.
At least 251,000 people have died and more than 11.7 million cases have been reported in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic. Across the country, nearly 81,000 people are currently hospitalized with the virus, and Thursday was the ninth consecutive day that hospitals reported a record high number of admissions, The Washington Post reported.
On her Thursday night broadcast, Maddow noted the rising number of hospitalizations, which have strained hospital staff and caused a shortage of beds inside the intensive care units where the worst covid-19 patients are treated.
“There isn’t room for you in the hospital anymore, broadly speaking, so for the sake of your country you really can’t get sick and need to go to the hospital right now,” she said Thursday. “And the only way to ensure that is to ensure that you do not get infected.”
Maddow is not the first news host to share her personal experience with the coronavirus pandemic in an effort to warn viewers about the devastating impact of the virus. In April, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo tested positive and later recounted on-air his “haunted” night fighting off a 103-degree fever. In October, several Fox News hosts had to quarantine after being exposed to the coronavirus on a flight returning from a presidential debate in Nashville.
Maddow shared her anguish over watching her partner suffer with the illness.
“What you need to know is that whoever is the most important person in your life, whoever you most love and most care for and most cherish in this world, that’s the person who you may lose,” Maddow said. “Or who you may spend weeks up all night freaking out about, and calling doctors all over the place, over and over again all night long, trying to figure out how to keep that person breathing and out of the hospital.”
She said Mikula, 62, tested positive two weeks ago. Maddow tested negative for the virus on the same day, she said. After the test results, the couple isolated from one another and the outside world.
The MSNBC host said she would give anything to trade places with her partner and be the one fighting off the virus. Instead, she said she has spent two weeks calling doctors and worrying about whether Mikula would survive her infection.
Mikula is still recovering, Maddow said Thursday.
“She’s still sick, but she’s going to be OK,” Maddow said.
Though Mikula is expected to recover, Maddow said the experience has still been devastating.
“This thing is scary as hell,” she said. “Whatever you’ve been willing to do to risk getting it, just don’t.”
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