Alex Trebek may be in strong spirits one year on from his cancer diagnosis, but that doesn’t mean Jeopardy! producers are willing to put the host’s health at further risk. Due to concerns over the coronavirus, both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune have decided to film upcoming episodes without their usual live studio audiences.
According to TMZ, the concern is threefold. First, there’s Trebek’s health, as his battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and continued chemotherapy has weakened his immune system. That puts him in a higher risk group in terms of coronavirus’ lethality, and executives don’t want to expose him to large groups of people unnecessarily.
Especially when those groups are the typical Jeopardy! — and for that matter, Wheel of Fortune — audiences. The makeup of the crowds tends to skew older, typically above 60. It’s an age group that’s most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 and not being able to beat it, so avoiding bringing large numbers of older folks together is probably in everyone’s best interest.
Lastly, a good portion of the game shows’ studio crowds tend to be traveling from out of town, attending tapings as part of their vacations. Obviously, travel is how the novel coronavirus has been able to spread so rapidly, adding to the risk of bringing people into the Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune studios.
Both programs will still shoot new episodes, though how long audiences will be kept out depends on the trajectory of the illness. The game shows are just the latest cultural events the coronavirus epidemic has impacted. Just days after South by Southwest was canceled, Coachella looks like it will either postpone until the fall or be axed all together. Pearl Jam just postponed the opening leg of their Gigaton tour, and Madonna was forced to call off the end of her “Madame X Tour” in Paris. See an updated list of what else has been affected here.