With the news of Pat Sajak‘s upcoming departure from his decades-long stint as the host of Wheel of Fortune, fans of the show might be alarmed when they tune in this week and notice that Vanna White is nowhere to be found.
Not to fret, however: White’s absence from this week’s episodes isn’t indicative of a permanent change. White merely missed a day of filming back in August as she recovered from COVID-19, which means she called in sick for five episodes of the show.
Addressing White’s absence at the beginning of Monday’s episode, Sajak said, “You’ll notice Vanna is not here, and I have to say that Ms. White has tested positive for COVID. 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.”
2023 California Teacher of the Year recipient Bridgette Donald-Blue will take over White’s letter-turning duties from Oct. 2 to Oct. 6 — a fitting choice, as the show is celebrating Teacher’s Week.
EW has learned that since teachers had already arrived to film the episodes in Los Angeles over the summer, the Teacher’s Week episodes could not be rescheduled. However, later episodes that were scheduled to film the next day (not part of Teacher’s Week) were rescheduled for a later date, allowing White time to recover.
According to TVLine, White has only missed the show three times, and her last absence was in 1991.
Sajak, meanwhile, announced in June that he’ll be retiring from his hosting duties at the end of season 41, which kicked off last month. “It’s been a wonderful ride,” he said at the time.
Last month, White extended her contract to stay on Wheel through the 2025-26 season. The move came after lengthy negotiations in which White attempted to secure her first pay raise in 18 years. Prior to the new contract, she reportedly made $3 million each year, a fraction of Sajak’s salary — and it is now believed that White received a “significant salary increase” with the extension, according to Deadline.
Seacrest recently told PEOPLE that fans shouldn’t expect any major shakeups to the show once he joins Wheel of Fortune. “With this game show, it’s such a success and has been for generations,” he said. “You don’t mess with it, just don’t mess with it. Just get out of the way, say ‘Good evening,’ and let’s play.”
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