The cause of Cuomo’s insomnia?
“This virus came at me. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cuomo said, telling viewers that he was racked with a fever of around 103 degrees “that wouldn’t quit."
“It was like somebody was beating me like a piñata,” he continued. “And I was shivering so much … I chipped my tooth.”
Then, there were the fever-induced hallucinations.
“My dad was talking to me,” a wide-eyed Cuomo said, referring to his late father, former New York governor and revered Democratic Party figure Mario Cuomo, who died in January 2015. “I was seeing people from college, people I haven’t seen in forever. It was freaky what I lived through last night, and it may happen again tonight.”
For the second night in a row, Cuomo, 49, who has repeatedly said that he refuses to be sidelined by the virus, merged his personal experience with news coverage of the global pandemic in an effort to drive home the seriousness of the outbreak. During Wednesday’s show, the anchor provided viewers with a firsthand account of what coronavirus symptoms may feel like, while also interviewing guests such as CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and the loved ones of a New Jersey emergency room doctor who recently died after treating covid-19 patients.
Cuomo isn’t the first TV personality to soldier on through a serious diagnosis, nor is he alone in allowing the public to be privy to details of his sensitive situation. But his decision to chronicle the misery of being afflicted with a potentially deadly disease, describing his symptoms live and in real time, appears to be an unprecedented move among network anchors.
Sitting in his basement dressed casually in a dark pullover and T-shirt, Cuomo kicked off his broadcast with an update on his condition.
“Anybody who’s ever seen me spar will tell you my first round is never my best, and this has proven no different with coronavirus,” he said. “I’ve never experienced any kind of fever like what I have going on all the time, and the body aches and the tremors and the concern about not being able to do anything about it. I totally get why so many are so scared all over this country.”
Although he reported feeling “way worse” on Wednesday, Cuomo had some good news to share with his audience.
“My biggest fear was passing this on to Cristina and the kids,” he said, referring to his wife of 19 years. “They’re negative, and that is the best thing I ever could’ve heard.”
Cuomo, who previously acknowledged that his battle with covid-19 pales in comparison with what many others may be facing, then attempted to shift the show’s focus to the national conversation surrounding the virus by bringing on Gupta. But before launching into a discussion about “stay at home” orders, Gupta made sure to check in with his colleague and friend.
“I’m happy to see you,” Gupta said. “We spoke last night after the show. You had these rigors, I’m just going to say it, so bad that I think you chipped a tooth. This was significant for you.
“I know you’re a warrior, but you’re allowed to take a day off,” the doctor added.
Gupta wasn’t the only person worried about Cuomo on Wednesday. At a news conference earlier in the day, the anchor’s older brother, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), told reporters that he was “frightened” by the situation.
“We’re talking about my little brother,” the governor said. “This is my best friend. I talk to him several times a day. … It’s frightening because there’s nothing I can do and I’m out of control.”
The elder Cuomo pointed to his brother as an example of how “anyone can get this disease,” praising the anchor’s “gutsy, courageous” decision to stay on-air.
“Show the country what it means to have coronavirus, and that information, that experience, can be helpful to people. That’s why he did the show last night,” the governor said. “Kudos to him. My pop would be proud. I love you, little brother.”
On Wednesday, Chris Cuomo detailed his experience with the coronavirus, giving people a glimpse into what he called a “spooky time.”
In-person interactions, Cuomo said, have been limited to tray exchanges at the top of the basement stairs with his wife, who is outfitted in a mask and gloves. When fellow CNN anchor Don Lemon came by for a visit, Cuomo recalled his colleague “looking at me like I’m in a zoo from behind a glass door.”
But none of that compared to what he went through Tuesday night, Cuomo said.
“I’ve had a lot of weird experiences in my life with health and everything else,” he said. “I’ve never had anything like what haunted me last night with this virus.”
Gesturing emphatically, Cuomo recounted his sleepless night, noting that doctors anticipate he may experience similarly harrowing episodes anywhere between five to eight more times as he continues to fight off the virus.
“I get it now,” he said. “If you match that with chest constriction and people can’t breathe, I totally get why we’re losing so many people and why our hospitals are so crowded.”
As he signed off for the night, Cuomo delivered a pointed message.
“Care enough not just to stay home, but to stay on our leaders to make sure that they’re doing everything they can to limit this,” he said. “I’m telling you, this is the part of our lives we will live through and remember the most. How do you want to be remembered during this time?”