Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 7, Episode 5 - Coronavirus II - full transcript

[HBO] HD. John Oliver discusses how the government is handling the coronavirus outbreak, how they're not, and what we can do to help.

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Hello, there !
Well, well, well...

This is weird, isn't it ?
This is definitely weird.

As you can clearly tell,

this is not going to be
our usual show for this week.

For a start,
there is no audience,

and also, we're not
even in our usual studio.

Partly 'cause we do like to shake
things up a bit whenever we can

and also partly because our actual
studio might be full of coronavirus.

I'm actually serious about that.

Both the place where
we normally tape on Sunday

and our office building
had confirmed cases of coronavirus.

So, our staff has been working
from home

and we're currently
taping this somewhere else

with a very limited crew
on this white void set

that kind of looks like the place movie
characters go when they've just died

or where they shot
the Kars-For-Kids commercial.

Very much, by the way,
the coronavirus of commercials,

in that it is horrifically
infectious and ruins people's lives.

We're not the only ones who've had
to make big adjustments to our lives.

This was the week that the coronavirus,
for many people here in the U.S.,

seemed to go from an abstraction
to a very real threat.

And maybe the best sign of just
how fast it all happened came,

as it always seems to, from
Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.

The Utah Jazz basketball team
will be quarantined in Oklahoma City

for the foreseeable future,
that according to ESPN.

Before the game, Rudy Gobert
spoke to the Utah media,

joking about possibly being sick
and then did this.

Making a point to touch every
microphone and recorder.

Hours later, we got the news that
he test positive for the coronavirus.

Yeah, of course he fucking did !
Nice work there, Rudy !

I would say that that feels
too stupid to actually be real,

but let's try and remember
that this is also the timeline

in which the official White House
Twitter account once tweeted:

"First snow of the year !"
on a 63-degree day,

on which, and this is true,
it did not snow.

So, honestly in many ways,

what Rudy Gobert did was
actually just stupid enough.

Now, that happened on Monday
and things spiraled from there.

America's major sports
were suspended, as was hockey.

March Madness was canceled,

and as if that weren't enough,
Rita Wilson and her husband Tom,

hashtag #Feminism,

announced that they had tested
positive for the coronavirus.

We've also learned political figures
from all over have tested positive,

including an Iranian vice president,
a U.K. health minister

and the mayor of Miami.

And that is just at the time
that we are taping this.

We are in the midst
of a rapidly-escalating outbreak

and it's very difficult to say
exactly where things stand.

Especially because, despite
Trump repeatedly claiming otherwise,

tests for this virus
are still not available,

in most places,
to those who need them.

Which means that we can't yet
properly track the virus

or know
how quickly it is spreading.

And that is not only catastrophic

because we're having to fly
blind in fighting this pandemic,

it's also deeply frustrating.

Especially when you see how quickly
other countries like South Korea

ramped up their testing capabilities.

And that is part of the reason
why it was actually refreshing

to hear the top U.S. official on
infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci,

say this
about our current testing system.

The system is not really
geared to what we need right now.

- That is a failing.
- A failing ? Yes.

Yeah, it is a failing. Let's admit it.
The idea of anybody getting it easily,

the way people in other country are
doing it, we're not set up for that.

Do I think we should be ?
Yes. But we're not.

No, we are not.

And incidentally, if you find yourself
really appreciating how calm,

and thorough Fauci is,

you're frankly
not alone on that !

He has been a rare source of clarity
in the Trump administration's response.

You should know, he is the nation's
leading infectious disease expert.

Is he my favorite infectious disease
expert ? No, of course he isn't.

Because that would be
Salvador Mazza.

And it is amazing that for a man

who studied
infectious diseases his whole life,

the only thing
he ever came down with

was a deadly case
of bedroom eyes.

Salvador, stop it !

Fauci is in a tough position
right now.

He has to balance the task
of communicating real, honest science

with this administration's aversion
to every one of those words.

But so far,
he seems to be doing a good job.

The same, unfortunately,
cannot be said about Trump,

who attempted to reassure the nation
with a sedated Oval Office speech

which was a complete mess.

Despite the fact he was reading
from a prepared statement,

he managed to mistakenly claim that
imports from Europe were being cut off,

which they were not,

that insurers would waive
co-pays not just for testing,

but for treatment,
which at present they won't.

And he seemed to imply
that Americans in Europe

could not get back into the country,
which they can.

And even he didn't seem entirely
satisfied with his performance.

The moment the speech was over,
this was his actual reaction.

- We're clear.
- Okay ? Okaaaay.

Yup. And that is the "Okaaaay"

of a man who has just completed
yet another substandard job

after refusing to put in
even the slightest bit of effort.

She knows
what I'm talking about.

She definitely knows
what I'm talking about.

This joke is landing so hard
with her right now.

And for the following days,
Trump seemed to be doing his very best

to try and minimize
the impact of this crisis,

often with a particular focus
on shoring up the stock market,

a dynamic perhaps best encapsulated
by this exchange with a reporter.

The markets
are going to be just fine.

Why do you say that ?
They're tanking.

I hate it when the president lies
as much as the next guy,

but why would you ask him:
"Why do you say that ?"

Because the answer to that
is always: it's just what he does !

Asking Trump why he says things
are fine when they're obviously not

is like asking the wind
why it whispers

or why the old redwood tree
grows so tall,

or why this corgi is so thicc.

That's just nature, baby.
It is what it is.

But again, nothing is fine here.
The president's response has, sadly,

been characterized
by disorganization and lies.

And the all time low, so far,

came in his Rose Garden
press conference on Friday.

If you saw news coverage
after the fact,

you may have seen
he declared a national emergency.

Which is good.

If that's all you saw of the conference
you might've been reassured.

if you watched the whole event,

there was a lot there
that was pretty concerning.

'Cause Trump also, inexplicably,
felt it important to bring up

a series of CEOs whose companies
were promising

to help increase
our testing capability

and who absolutely
did not need to be there.

Especially because for some reason,
Trump defied every health protocol

by shaking their hands,
patting their backs

and touching the microphone
at least 31 times,

despite the fact he'd been exposed
to people with the virus himself

last weekend at Mar-a-Lago,
where a growing number of guests

have since tested positive.

Which, by the way, is the rare
instance of the word "positive"

being associated with any
experience at Mar-a-Lago.

But perhaps
the most emblematic response

was when he was asked about
the country's disastrous lag in testing

and said:
"I don't take responsibility at all."

and then had this exchange
with a reporter.

You said
that you don't take responsibility,

but you did disband
the White House Pandemic Office

and the officials in that office
left this administration abruptly.

So, what responsibility
do you take to that ?

The officials in that office said

that the White House lost time
because that office was disbanded.

What do you make of that ?

I think it's a nasty question.
When you say "me," I didn't do it.

We have a group of people...
I could ask, perhaps...

I could perhaps
ask Tony about that,

because I don't know
anything about it.

You say we did that...

You don't know about the reorganization
at the National Security Council ?

It's the administration.
Perhaps they do that !

People let people go. You used to be
with a different newspaper than now.

Okay, please, go ahead.
We're doing a great job.

Perfect. "I didn't do it.
I don't know anything about it."

"Maybe someone in the administration
did it. Maybe Tony did it."

"These things happen. I don't know,"
again, "We're doing a great job."

That is reminiscent of Truman's
famous saying:

"The buck stops...
somewhere over there, maybe ?"

Tony ?
Tony, you stop that buck ?

Tony probably stopped it.
I don't know, lady, I just work here.

That is a level
of dodging responsibility

that Trump has been perfecting ever
since he was very much not in Vietnam.

It feels important to point out
that one of the marquee announcements

was the president's claim
that Google was building a website

that would direct people
to drive-through testing facilities,

which sounds fantastic.

But, you should know,
Google quickly clarified

the site "is in the early stages
of development"

with plans to roll out
testing in the Bay Area,

and maybe expand it
more broadly over time.

So, in terms of immediate help,
that website is about as effective

as going to IsThisACat-dot-com.

If you're not familiar
with this website,

you can simply upload a photo
and it will tell you with a yes or no

if the thing you're looking at
is a cat or not.

See that ?
The website knows it's a cat.

When I uploaded a picture of a dog,
the website says "no."

That's how you know
it's a good website.

Will it tell where the drive-through
testing locations are ?

No, it won't.
But for the time being,

neither will Trump's Google thing,
so you might as well spend your time

looking at things
that are and are not cats.

This is clearly both frustrating
and extremely unnerving.

And it is contributing to a sense of
confusion in the country at the moment.

At this point,

it might really be best for us
to put the president aside.

There is going to be ample time
to be utterly furious with him later.

But the fact is, even though
this should not be the case,

it seems we're gonna be
a little bit on our own here.

And because of that, it might be
worth going over some basic rules

that health experts say
we should all absolutely be following

to help stem this outbreak.

Individuals have been doing their
best to spread good information online,

including a number of social-media
celebrities on TikTok,

none more delightful
than this one.

I mean that is excellent.

That TikTok hamster is now
my favorite thing in the world.

I fully understand
I have a wife and two children.

I'll say it again: that TikTok hamster
is my favorite thing in the world.

And it is truly sad that a hamster
just genuinely offered

more useful public-health advice
in one 12-second TikTok

than the president has in multiple
addresses to the nation.

Let's go over what that very wise ball
of fluff was just telling us.

First: wash your hands
for at least 20 seconds.

That's really good advice.
It's basically the time it takes

to sing "Happy Birthday"
to Oprah twice.

So, it's time well-spent.

Make sure you cough and sneeze
into a tissue, your elbow

or your upper sleeve,
not your hand.

And disinfect frequently
touched surfaces daily.

Third: wear masks only if you have
symptoms or you are a caregiver,

as it is important that there are
enough of these masks available

for medical professionals and
those with respiratory conditions.

And, finally, stay home,

especially if you're sick,
but also if you are not.

That last one is part
of what's called "social distancing",

or, as President Trump put it
on Twitter with all caps

and no further explanation:

Exclamation mark !

He makes a fine point,

but if I may just expand
on that scream-tweet a little,

social distancing
is absolutely crucial right now.

The idea is to avoid crowded places,
cancel social engagements,

avoid unnecessary travel,

work from home
if that is an option for you,

and if you need to buy groceries
or use public transit,

try to do it at off-peak times.

Now, obviously, that is not
all feasible for everyone,

but if you truly
have no choice but to go out,

it is vital to protect yourself
and others

by keeping a distance of at least
six feet from other people.

Basically, for the time being,
pretend you're a British parent

and everyone else
in the world is your child.

Keep as much distance as you can,
avoid physical contact at all costs

and if any one of them try
to give you a hug, reject it.

The reason why social distancing
is so important

is because it can help us
"flatten the curve".

It's a phrase you've probably
heard a lot this week.

What it means is this:
slow the spread of the virus

so we don't overwhelm
the healthcare system.

We only have so many ventilators
and hospital beds.

And if cases spike all at once,
they could max out our capacity.

I know that there is a temptation
to think: "Hold on, this is America."

"I'm sure we have enough ventilators
for even the worst-case scenario".

We don't. We really don't.

So, it is imperative
that we spread cases out

over a longer period of time

so that everyone
who needs care can get it.

Proper social distancing
involves some sacrifice,

but this is a critical thing

that we should all do for
the more vulnerable among us

and for healthcare workers
who are going to be in the shit

for some time to come.

For an example of what it looks like
when you do not flatten the curve,

look to the hardest hit
areas of Italy,

where cases have
so overwhelmed the system,

doctors have had to make
very difficult choices

about who gets potentially life-saving
treatment and who doesn't.

In addition to attempting to quell
the spread of the virus,

we should also be doing
everything that we can

to contain the spread
of misinformation

because there is a lot of harmful
bullshit flying around.

There's Alex Jones, who
suggested that his toothpaste

"kills the whole SARS-corona
family at point-blank range".

And it would be great
if it did that !

I would love it if his toothpaste
did that. But y'know... it doesn't.

There's multiple commentators who've
made comparisons to the swine flu,

an illness with a mortality rate
at least 50 times lower than this one.

Then there is Geraldo Rivera,

who felt it important
to tell Fox viewers this.

If you've got a fever or if you can't
hold your breath for 10 seconds.

Everyone should do that.
Hold your breath for 10 seconds.

If you can hold your breath
for 10 seconds, then you're...

You don't have this disease.

I am guessing you instinctively
know this, but:

that's just not true
in any way whatsoever.

You can't test for the coronavirus
by holding your breath.

I do have a way that Geraldo
can test for the coronavirus,

but this will only work for Geraldo
and absolutely no one else.

Are you listening, Geraldo ?
Okay, hold your breath, like this.

Right ? You doing it ?
Now, keep holding it.

Keep holding it, Geraldo.
Keep holding that breath, Geraldo.

I know you might be feeling dizzy,
about to pass out,

but don't worry, G-Man, that
means the test is working.

Keep holding your breath.
Do not breathe, Geraldo.

Don't you breathe right now.
Your lungs are probably burning,

that means you're
disinfecting them, well done.

Keep holding your breath.
I will tell you when to let it out.

I'm not gonna tell him
to let it out.

The point is, I know that that
may seem obviously dumb,

but there is a ton of misinformation,
and not all is so obviously bullshit.

Please be careful before forwarding
or retweeting stuff

that you do not know to be true.

Our personal actions
are going to count here.

Even if you are not worried about
getting this virus, other people,

especially the elderly
and the immunosuppressed,

simply don't have that luxury.

So, it is a good idea
to treat these precautions

like you would a flu shot.

You don't just get a flu shot for you,
you get it for everybody else.

We all have a real responsibility
to one another right now,

the choices we make
in the coming days and weeks

will contribute directly
to how bad this crisis gets.

I know that this disruption
to your life is annoying.

It's okay to be disappointed
or even irritated,

'cause you can't go out or your
favorite events were postponed,

or a trip you had
planned fell through.

But you've got to get that
out of your system.

Let's put 30 seconds
on the clock right now,

during which everyone
can be selfishly angry

about the things that they didn't
want canceled or postponed,

whether it's the NBA
suspending its season,

or Disney World being closed,

or the ninth "Fast & Furious" movie
being pushed back a year.

It's the one John Cena
was gonna be in !

That stings,
I'm not gonna say it doesn't.

I'm gonna be spending
the next 30 seconds being furious

about the fact that my favorite
football team, Liverpool,

were two games away from
winning the League championship

before games were suspended,
so, let's start the clock, now.

I've waited
my entire adult life for this.

They were about to win the title
for the first time in 30 years.

They were 25 points
ahead of Man City, 25 points !

A historic margin. And you're
telling me it could be for nothing ?

Mo Salah deserves to be
a Premier League champion.

The coach,
Jürgen Klopp, deserves this !

He has specifically pointed out,

that we should
not worry about the League now,

we should keep things
in perspective,

but that makes me want him
to win the title even more.

I want to see the trophy going
through the Shankly Gates.

That doesn't make me
a bad person ? Okay ?

That's it. We're out of time.
It's out of my system now.

It just feels like they should
give Liverpool the League title,

'cause they've basically won it.

Okay. I'm done.

It's not like anyone's gonna catch up
from the 25-point deficit anyway.

Okay, you're right.
Sports are not important right now.

I mean, they're not really
important ever,

but they're especially
not important now.

I know things
are currently very scary.

And things
are gonna be weird for a while,

for weeks, and honestly,
more likely, months.

And the fact that that is true
makes it even more important

that, going forward, we're gonna
need to look out for one another

and not just in terms of containing
the transmission of this virus,

but also in terms of the economic
impact that this is going to have

on people who may well
not be able to weather it.

This is going to be an unsettling
and potentially lonely time.

So, think about calling older
relatives or neighbors,

or just anyone that you know
who may be vulnerable,

or feeling isolated.

One small way you can help

is by donating financially
to your local food bank.

There is a directory of those
at FeedingAmerica-dot-org.

Just to reiterate: try your best,
I know it's hard,

but try your best to tune out
and not pass on misinformation

from sources like,
sadly, the president.

And instead, pay more attention
to trustworthy information

from the CDC,
experts like Anthony Fauci,

and of course,
TikTok hamsters.

Always TikTok hamsters.

Take care of yourself.
Take care of each other.

And we will be back in some form,
sometime in the future.

And until then,
stay safe and goodnight !

We're clear.

Okaaaay. Fuuuck.