“You’ll notice Vanna is not here, and I have to say that Ms. White has tested positive for COVID,” Sajak, 76, announced at the top of the Monday, October 2, episode. “That’s the bad news. The good news is I talked to her just a little while ago and she feels fine. She has a little sniffle. But she tested positive and that’s the way it goes, so she will not be with us here this week.”
Sajak went on to announce that in honor of Teacher’s Week, 2023 California Teach of the Year winner Bridgette Donald-Blue would be taking over White’s puzzle board duties for the remainder of the week.
Though the Teacher’s Week episodes will air through Friday, October 6, they were filmed back in July. It was revealed the following month that White, 66, contracted COVID-19 during filming and would be missing from the block of episodes.
Her recent absence marks the fourth time she has missed tapings since taking over for former cohost Susan Stafford in 1982. Stafford, 77, filled in for White in 1986 following the death of White’s boyfriend, John Gibson. Tricia Gist took over White’s role twice, once when White went on a two-week honeymoon with her ex-husband, George Santo Pietro, in 1991, and again the following year when the iconic letter-turner got sick.
Earlier this year, White was reportedly negotiating for a higher salary following news of Sajak’s retirement from Wheel of Fortune, as she reportedly has not received a raise in 18 years.
Sajak announced in June that he would be stepping down as host of the game show following the conclusion of season 41. “It’s been a wonderful ride, and I’ll have more to say in the coming months. Many thanks to you all,” he said in a statement at the time.
White reacted to the news via X (formerly Twitter) not long after, writing, “I couldn’t be happier to have shared the stage with you for all these years with one more to come. Cheers to you, @patsajak!”
Seacrest, 48, continued: “I can say, along with the rest of America, that it’s been a privilege and pure joy to watch Pat and Vanna on our television screens for an unprecedented 40 years, making us smile every night and feel right at home with them. Pat, I love the way you’ve always celebrated the contestants and made viewers at home feel at ease. I look forward to learning everything I can from you during this transition.”
Sajak, for his part, wished Seacrest the best of luck via X, writing in a since-deleted tweet, “I’m looking forward to my final season starting this fall. And then handing over the car keys to Ryan Seacrest in September of 2024.”
Last month, White signed a two-year contract extension to remain on the series through Summer 2026.