'Jeopardy!' in the time of COVID-19: Alex Trebek's health is top priority, new producer Ken Jennings says

Alex Trebek began hosting "Jeopardy!" in 1984. (Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)
Alex Trebek began hosting Jeopardy! in 1984. (Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)

You know that part of every Jeopardy! episode, right after the first commercial break, when host Alex Trebek mingles with the contestants? Don’t expect to see that in the era of COVID-19.

Ken Jennings, a former contestant who won the show’s Jeopardy! Greatest of All Time tournament in January, has been named a consulting producer for the show’s 37th season. During an appearance Monday on Good Morning America, he explained that Trebek will no longer approach players at all. The show aired its first new episode Sept. 14 after having shut down production in March.

“Trebek will stay at the host’s podium, instead of coming over to the contestants because Alex’s health is priority No. 1 on that set,” Jennings explained on Good Morning America.

“He’s the last of the old-school broadcasters — the way he’s in people’s homes every night,” Jennings said. “People feel like he’s part of the family. I know he’s raring to go. He was not happy about the slightly longer-than-usual Jeopardy! hiatus. He’s excited to be back.”

Trebek, who’s hosted the quiz show since 1984, turned 80 on July 22. His age alone makes him particularly vulnerable to the virus, but he’s also a cancer patient. The beloved TV star revealed in March 2019 that he’d been diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer.

Since then, he’s given fans regular updates on his treatment. He said in July that he was fatigued from treatments but was otherwise “feeling great.”

Trebek noted at the time that changes were in store for the new season.

“We’ve redesigned our set to separate the contestants and myself a little bit more from them,” Trebek said during his own GMA interview. “So we are taking all kinds of precautions. Our testing procedure now is done online.”

In addition, the contestants will stand farther apart and taping will be limited to two days a week.

In Jennings’s new role, he’ll be presenting video categories, reaching out to potential new contestants and working with the smarties who come up with those clues.

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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