'Wheel of Fortune' Star Vanna White Urges Fans to 'Stay Safe' After Show Suspends Production Due to Coronavirus

With Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! both on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wheel co-host Vanna White urged fans to "stay safe." The shows have been on hold since March 16, just as the number of COVID-19 cases began to rise. The two shows filmed episodes without audiences for a week before ultimately pausing all together out of an abundance of caution.

"With the increasing concern surrounding COVID-19, we have decided to temporarily suspend production on Wheel of Fortune and [Jeopardy!]," the Wheel team announced on March 16. "The health and well-being of our contestants, staff, and crew are our top priority, and we will continue to monitor the situation as it develops."

White later followed that up with, "Hope to be back in the studio soon, but in the meantime stay safe and take care."

While White shared a more serious message with fans, co-star Pat Sajak tried to lighten the mood with some jokes about the situation. "My hands have never been cleaner," he wrote on March 11 as a reference to the frequent hand-washing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have suggested people do during the crisis.

"Thank goodness we have social media during this difficult time to bring us thoughtful and helpful information free of rancor or political agendas," Sajak later wrote on March 15.

Before completely pausing production, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! producers tried what many other shows did, and began filming without a studio audience. The decision was made because Sajak, White and Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek are all over 60 and considered at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than younger age groups. This only lasted a week though, as California officials began clamping down on large gatherings of people to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Thankfully, enough episodes were already in the can so networks across the country still have new games to air.

White, 63, is coming off her success with hosting Wheel of Fortune without Sajak, who was sidelined last winter after needing surgery to clear a blocked intestine. It was the first time fans got to see her hosting alone, with her final solo episodes airing in January. White later said she would not be interested in hosting the show more often though.

"No. I like my puzzle board, I want to stay at my puzzle board," White said in an Esquire interview in December. "And there's no competition either. It's Pat's job, and I'm filling in for him. I'm not looking to take his position."

White had very little warning that she would be called on to host the show. She compared the moment to being a baseball player whose position is first base and is suddenly told to more to pitcher.

"It's like I've been playing first base in this ball game... and all of a sudden the captain comes up and says you're gonna play pitcher today," the television veteran explained. "It's like, 'Ooh, wait, I know how to play first base, and I know how to play the game, but putting myself in another position is totally different.'"

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There are more than 1 million coronavirus cases around the world, including over 245,000 in the U.S. More than 5,900 deaths have been reported as of Thursday night.

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