Breanne L. Heldman
January 02, 2018 AT 07:40 AM EST

NBC’s Today has kicked off 2018 by announcing Hoda Kotb will replace Matt Lauer as the morning show’s co-host.

Kotb will anchor the two-hour broadcast alongside Savannah Guthrie, making this the first time in history two women have hosted the venerable NBC morning show. (As NBC itself pointed out, ABC was the first network to have two women anchor a morning show, with Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts co-hosting Good Morning America from 2006-2009.) In addition to her new duties, Kotb will continue to host the fourth hour of Today with Kathie Lee Gifford.

“Welcome to Today and we are kicking off the year right because Hoda is officially the co-anchor of Today, so let’s give her a round of applause,” Guthrie began the show Tuesday morning. “This has to be the most popular decision NBC News has ever made and I am so thrilled.”

“I am pinching myself,” Kotb said. “I think we should send some medics to Alexandria, Virginia, where my mom has likely fainted after hearing the open of that show.”

“You are a partner and a friend and a sister and I am so happy to be doing this,” Guthrie added.

In a statement to staff, NBC News chair Andy Lack said, “Over the past several weeks, Hoda has seamlessly stepped into the co-anchor role alongside Savannah, and the two have quickly hit the ground running. They have an undeniable connection with each other and most importantly, with viewers, a hallmark of Today.”

Kotb previously stepped in as a replacement for Lauer, who was fired in late November of last year for what NBC called “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.”

“This is a very tough morning for both of us,” Kotb said to Guthrie on the morning it was revealed Lauer had been fired. “I’ve loved Matt for 15 years, and I’ve loved him as a friend and as a colleague, and again just like you were saying Savannah, it’s hard to reconcile what we are hearing with the man who we know, who walks in this building every single day. We were both woken up with the news kind of pre-dawn, and we’re trying to process it and make sense of it, and it will take some time for that.”

Speaking to PEOPLE about that day now, Guthrie said she and Kotb “were in it together” and added, “We are family, and families do go through hard times, and when that happens in good families, you just get closer. … It was such a shock to wake up one day and not have Matt, but it was the most natural and comforting thing in the world to have Hoda right there. No one wanted that to stop.”

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