Brow Beat

John Oliver Explains How the U.S. Can Reopen Safely

The key is testing, preferably administered by Adam Driver.

After a weeklong hiatus, John Oliver returned to his “Great White Void” Sunday night to discuss the Trump administration’s premature plans to reopen the country and what it would take to actually do so safely. While Jared Kushner has described the federal government’s response to COVID-19, which has allowed the United States to lead the world in deaths, as “a great success story,” and predicted that the country will be “really rockin’ again” by July, the Last Week Tonight host emphasized that one of the administration’s greatest failures concerns the thing we’d most need to return to something closer to normalcy: testing.


While there’s broad scientific consensus that widely available testing is key to reopening, the testing shortage has been one of the most devastating and confusing aspects of the pandemic in America, so Oliver spent the bulk of the segment recapping why that’s the case, from unreliable tests to manufacturing errors to slow government response times. He also broke down why antibody tests are so poorly understood. While many have suggested that these tests could help determine one’s immunity to COVID-19 and therefore play a crucial role in the reopening of the country, Oliver reminds us of how much is still unknown about the immune response to the virus. While the presence of antibodies does suggest some level of immunity, it is not clear if it fully protects against reinfection. Additionally, many of the antibody tests on the market appear to be wildly unreliable, making them the equivalent of a “Guess Your Coronavirus Antibody Level” booth at a carnival. “If this is a ‘great success story’ for anyone,” Oliver concludes, “it’s for the fucking coronavirus.”