The studio audience at CBS’s “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” has been entirely masked up this week — an unusual level of precaution that has prompted ridicule on social media.
During Tuesday’s taping of the nightly show, Colbert mocked the Biden administration’s announcement that it was planning to end the federal state of emergency first instituted at the start of the COVID pandemic.
“Take that COVID, we beat you!” Colbert said during his monologue in response to the news. “Shove that up your nose and rotate it five times!”
Colbert, who has used his platform to hit out at critics of mitigation measures such as vaccinations, closures, and mask mandates, then noted that his entire studio audience was wearing face coverings.
“I wish you could see the smiles on the faces in my audience. And I wish I could, too. Because they’re still wearing masks,” Colbert said.
In response, Clay Travis, who runs the sports news site Outkick, tweeted out a video clip from the show on Thursday, saying “their brains are broken” and that “every single one of these smug anti-science losers has gotten four covid shots & thinks Elon Musk buying Twitter will cause disinformation to flourish.”
“I’m getting the sense that masks for the left have become similar to open carry for the right,” another user quipped.
“Must be a joke?” another asked. “Colbert asked his audience to wear the mask just for the camera? I hope.”
Colbert’s show requires its studio audience to “be fully vaccinated and provide in-person verification of vaccination,” according to the official website used to reserve tickets. As for masking, the show ties its policy to the “community risk level” for Manhattan as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“When New York County is in a medium or high community risk level, according to the CDC, masks covering your nose and mouth are required at all times in the theater,” according to the website.
The Colbert show has kept the restrictions even as many Broadway shows have relaxed such requirements, making masking optional. As of Thursday, the CDC said that community risk level in Manhattan was “Medium.”
The CDC gauges the level of community risk using three indicators: the number of new COVID hospitalizations; the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID patients; and new COVID cases.
In the last week, there have been slightly more than 300 confirmed cases of COVID in Manhattan, according to city public health officials. Last week, the seven-day average of COVID hospitalizations in Manhattan stood at around 17.
The Post has sought comment from CBS.
“This is a huge moment, after all the COVID we’ve all been through — the Delta Variant, Omicron, Omicron BA-2, XBB.1.5, Z-95, the home of classic rock,” Colbert quipped on the Turesday show.
He added: “For the record, the White House isn’t saying COVID is gone.”
“Just that we’re past the worst of it, and we can now treat the virus as ‘an endemic threat to public health that can be managed’,” Colbert said, reading from an Associated Press news story.
“So, COVID’s no longer an emergency, just a disease we’re all going to live with forever,” Colbert said.