Colbert on Omicron: ‘Kinda sweet that we all gave each other the same thing for Christmas’
Stephen Colbert observed another grim milestone in the two-year saga of grim Covid milestones for the US: on Monday, the US notched a record 1.5m new Covid infections due to the surge of the Omicron variant. “That is terrible,” the Late Show host said, “but kinda sweet that we all gave each other the same thing for Christmas”.
The US also saw a record-breaking 145,000 Covid hospitalizations, with experts predicting a peak in the 300,000 range, though the CDC has offered a clarification on that statistic. Its director, Rochelle Walensky, estimated that 40% of the patients hospitalized with Covid are not presenting because of Covid symptoms, but coming in for something else and then having the virus detected.
“OK sure, but even if people aren’t coming in for Covid initially, the hospitals are still overflowing,” Colbert noted. “That’s like saying ‘uh, technically, up to 40% of the people who drowned on the Titanic were already wet because they were in the bathtub when the ship went down, so not so bad.’”
Meanwhile, America’s resident Covid expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, finally reached the end of his rope with antagonistic Republican lawmakers on Tuesday. During a congressional hearing, the White House’s top immunologist called out the Republican senator Rand Paul of Kentucky for misleading and baseless accusations.
“What happens when he gets out and accuses me of things that are completely untrue, is that all of a sudden that kindles the crazies out there, and I have threats upon my life, harassment of my family with obscene phone calls, because people are lying about me,” Fauci said.
“That’s just terrible. Dr Fauci should not be getting obscene phone calls from violent crazies,” said Colbert. “He should be getting them from lonely singles who saw his InStyle magazine cover.”
Pointing to Paul’s campaign website, in which a donation tab is accompanied by a “Fire Dr Fauci banner,” Fauci also blasted Paul for “making a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain”.
“A pretty damning accusation,” Colbert said. “In response, Rand Paul sent out an email: ‘Dr Fauci tried to smear me by saying I’m profiting from the pandemic. Prove him wrong by donating $10, $20, or $100 today!’”
And in Los Angeles, Jimmy Kimmel lamented pandemic fatigue, which has forced health officials to urge Americans not to catch Covid on purpose. “They have to tell us that? ‘Please don’t intentionally give yourself a deadly disease,’” Kimmel joked.
“Here’s the thing: there are only so many doctors, and there are only so many nurses, and there are only so many hospital beds,” he added. “When everyone tries to get something all at the same time, it’s a disaster. Didn’t we learn nothing from the great toilet paper crisis of 2020?”
In non-Covid news, the treasury department has predicted a “frustrating” tax season for the overwhelmed IRS, “which is a shame, because it’s normally so homey and warm”, Kimmel deadpanned.
“It’s funny, you know, when the IRS is behind on getting their refunds to us, they take all the time they need,” he continued. “When we’re a day late paying them, they’re like ‘and which prison would you like to go to?’”
According to the New York Times, the beleaguered department had fewer than 15,000 employees to handle more than 240m calls – that’s 16,000 calls per person – during the 2021 filing season that left over 35m unprocessed returns. “That’s why Trump never pays taxes,” Kimmel joked. “He knows how overworked these people are. It’s called being considerate.”