Rich Eisen thought he was about to head off a long-planned vacation to Italy earlier this month, but he wound up being quarantined in a Boston hotel room for 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19.
Eisen, the longtime NFL Network analyst and host of Peacock’s daily “The Rich Eisen Show,” has been vaccinated since February. He was shocked to learn that his COVID test in preparation for his flight to Italy came back positive, only five days after his most recent negative test. Less than 48 hours after he noticed a tickle in the back of his throat that he chalked up to allergies, Eisen was suddenly under quarantine orders.
“You could have knocked me over with a feather” after learning of his positive test, Eisen told Variety. Along with his wife, sports reporter and podcast host Suzy Shuster, Eisen has tried to be “so careful” to protect their three young children. His quarantine situation became that much more stressful after Eisen learned his 7-year-old daughter back home in Los Angeles had also tested positive.
Eisen went public with his story on social media as a means of spreading two important messages. First, vaccinated people still have to be careful in public spaces. “This pandemic is not over,” he said. Second, the vaccine he received did its job admirably, Eisen stressed. A former anchor of ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” Eisen was advised that as a 52-year-old man he likely would have come down with a much more severe case of coronavirus were it not for the jab.
“I want my story to be a cautionary tale for people,” Eisen said. “Not enough people have taken the vaccine to stop the (Delta) variant from piercing my vaccine. But the only reason I was able to FaceTime my daughter from that hotel room was because I was vaccinated. That’s all I kept thinking about day after day.”
Eisen’s symptoms worsened for about five days, although he rode it out in the hotel room. He suffered night sweats, chills and body aches but no fever. He kept his sense of smell and taste but had no appetite for days. “It was hard to get out of bed,” he said. He had to keep an oxygen monitor on his index finger, even if he was breathing fine.
“It was really jarring. It knocks you out,” he said. “It’s frightening because you don’t know how your body is going to be affected by it. All they can tell you is generalizations and educated guesses. It turns out even if you feel like you’re breathing fine you can be having trouble with your oxygen levels.”
Eisen and his wife, a frequent “Eisen Show” guest and guest host, debated whether he should go public with his COVID drama. He was worried that some might seize on it as evidence that vaccines are not effective, when in reality the opposite is true.
“I want to make sure that people know that I’m telling this story not because the vaccine didn’t work but because it did,” Eisen said. The message to those who have not yet been vaccinated is clear, in Eisen’s view.
“Here I was starting to get out in the world again and then I was in quarantine like it was back to Month 1 of the pandemic,” he said. “My tale is the personification of ‘We’re not there yet.’ In order to get where we want to go — to a wedding or to an event or to a vacation in Italy — we all need to get vaccinated.”
Now that he’s battled COVID first-hand, Eisen said he’s “infuriated when I see members of the political class talking down vaccines and saying the pandemic is over. We’re not there yet. My daughter got it, I got it,” he said.
Eisen and Shuster’s trek to Italy will have to wait for some time. Now that he’s on the mend, Eisen is preparing to work out of NBCUniversal’s Connecticut studios as of later this week as host of “Tokyo Gold,” a daily Olympics recap show for Peacock. He also worked with Terry Crews as co-host of the NBC special “Olympic Dreams With the Jonas Brothers,” set to air July 21.
Eisen recently renewed his contract with Peacock for “The Rich Eisen Show.” The daily three-hour sports and entertainment-focused talk show began in 2014 on DirecTV’s Audience Network channel. In late 2019, when DirecTV pulled the plug on Audience Network entirely, Eisen cold-called NBCUniversal to pitch the show for Peacock. He initially struck a three-month deal, which has been extended twice. He’s also marking his 18th year as a regular on the NFL Network cabler.
After Audience Network folded, veteran broadcaster became a one-man band running the production company behind “The Rich Eisen Show,” for which he has assembled a patchwork quilt of distribution partners. The show is also carried on Sirius XM, YouTube, as a podcast via Cumulus Media and as a radio program syndicated by Westwood One.
Said Eisen: “It’s been a draining and exhilarating experience.”
(Pictured: Writer-producer Larry David and Rich Eisen)