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The choice to forgo having spectators at the live tapings was made out of concern for the show’s senior audience, who are said to be the most at risk for complications associated with the COVID-19 coronavirus, the source says.
The decision was also was made in consideration of Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek‘s health as the host currently has a compromised immune system due to his ongoing fight against stage 4 pancreatic cancer. This makes him more susceptible to the virus.
News of the change, which was first reported by TMZ, comes after a top official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans that “many will become sick” from the virus as it continues to spread across the country.
“It’s fair to say that as the trajectory of the outbreak continues, many people in the United States, will at some point in time, either this year or next, be exposed to this virus. And there’s a good chance that many will become sick,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in a press briefing on Monday.
Messonnier said that COVID-19 is “highly contagious” and “there’s essentially no immunity against this virus in the population because it’s a new virus.”
While the disease will be mild for the majority of people — with symptoms such as coughing, sneezing and a fever — older adults and those with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk for developing a severe respiratory infection that can lead to death, she said.
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Last May, Trebek, 79, told PEOPLE that his first round of chemotherapy had gone so well that some of his tumors had shrunk by 50 percent. However, later in the summer, he said his numbers had gone back up, and he would undergo another round of chemo — the side effects of which can leave him feeling depleted and oftentimes, depressed.
“There were some good days, but a lot of not so good days. I joke with friends that the cancer won’t kill me, but the chemo will,” the game show host said in a health update video shared on Wednesday.
“There were moments of great pain,” he explained. “Sudden massive attacks of great depressions that made me wonder if it was really worth fighting on. But I brushed that aside quickly, because that would have been a massive betrayal — a betrayal of my wife and soulmate Jean, who has helped me survive. A betrayal of other cancer patients who have looked to me as an inspiration, and a cheerleader of sorts of the value of living and hope.”
He added, “And it certainly would have been a betrayal of my faith in God and the millions of prayers that have been said on my behalf.”
Trebek also noted in the video that though the two-year survival rate is only 7 percent, he sees no reason he can’t continue fighting the good fight and beating the odds. He concluded the clip with a message for other fellow patients and survivors out there.
“So many of us are involved in this same situation,” he said. “If we take it just one day at a time with a positive attitude, anything is possible.”