Oprah Winfrey says she didn’t leave her home for almost full year during Covid-19 pandemic

Oprah Winfrey opens up about her pandemic experience ahead of the release of her new documentary ‘The Color of Care’ which explores racial inequities in American healthcare

Rachel Sharp
Saturday 30 April 2022 17:02
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Oprah Winfrey has revealed that she didn’t step outside of her home for almost an entire year at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The talk show host told The Los Angeles Times that she has been “so careful” to protect herself from the virus that even her own friends have mocked her and questioned how she didn’t feel lonely.

“I’ve been so careful with myself that my own friends make fun of me,” she said.

“I didn’t leave home for 322 days – literally did not leave the house.”

Ms Winfrey opened up about her pandemic experience ahead of the release of her new documentary “The Color of Care” on Sunday, which explores racial inequities in healthcare in the US.

She revealed that she was surprised at how easily she “was able to adjust to the isolation and not being around other people” as she quarantined herself for the best parts of 2020 and 2021.

She recalled one particular conversation with her close friend Gayle King where the Good Morning America host asked her if she missed being around other people.

“I go, ‘Eh, not really.’ And I think it’s because every day, I was in an audience of 350 people twice a day, so I’ve had shaking hands and autographs and selfies, and lots of attention, and exposure to being around a lot of people,” she said.

“I was able to be with myself in a way that I haven’t been able to for years, because usually, even if I take time off for myself, I’m thinking about what is the next thing to come.

“Overall, I was able to adjust because I have the ability [and] really strong sense of being in this present moment and living this moment without having to worry about the next.”

She added that “it was only the latter part of 2021 that it started to wear on me like, ‘OK, had enough of this’.”

However, Ms Winfrey said that she recognised that her celebrity status and wealth put her in a fortunate position as she did not need to worry about how to pay the bills or where her next paycheck would come from.

“You can do that when you don’t have to worry about where your next paycheck is coming from. I didn’t have to worry about, “Am I going to have rent? Am I going to be able to get food? Am I going to be able to keep the lights on and am I going to be able to take care of my children?” she said.

She also said that she was “very fortunate” that she did not lose anyone close to her to Covid-19.

“So it has not been for me personally a heavy burden to bear,” she said.

Oprah Winfrey

However, seeing the toll the pandemic took on other people caused her to recognise the extent of inequality in America’s healthcare system, particularly for people of colour, the talk show host explained.

She was especially struck by the story of 56-year-old Black man Gary Fowler who was turned away from three emergency rooms in Detroit in late March 2020.

His father had contracted Covid-19 and was on a ventilator in hospital and Mr Fowler had then developed severe symptoms.

After being sent home by three hospitals, he died at home from Covid-19 on 7 April.

Ms Winfrey said the pandemic shone more of a spotlight on the racial inequities and made her realise that the disparity is not just about whether or not an individual has access to health insurance.

Instead, she said that she was surprised to learn that “inequities in so many other areas of your life also contribute to the major disparity when it comes to healthcare” and wants to draw attention to these inequities and “actually champion some changes to hopefully eliminate racial disparities in the delivery of US healthcare”.

Ms Winfrey said she recognises that her celebrity status has given her greater access to healthcare than other people.

“You get the doctor’s appointment. You don’t have to wait in line. You don’t have to deal with a lot of excess delays that other people have. And so I have lived this life of privilege and advantage, and then been exposed to the best of healthcare,” she said.

But while she ackowledges her fame has been an “advantage”, she recalled one time where it actually led doctors to misdiagnose a health concern.

Back in 2007, she said she was suffering heart palpitations for an entire year and went to five different doctors for help.

Each doctor gave her a different medication with one giving her an angiogram – but none carried out a blood test.

It was only when she went to one clinic and they carried out a blood test that they realised it wasn’t a heart problem and diagnosed her with a thyroid issue.

As well as using lessons from the pandemic to push to end healthcare inequities, Ms Winfrey also said she hopes that there will be “an acknowledgment about what we’ve been through” over the last two years.

“I am appalled, I am stunned. I don’t recognize a country where you’ve lost nearly a million people and there hasn’t been some form of remembering that is significant,” she said.

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