Likening the path of America in the coming week to the way of suffering marked by many Christians during Holy Week, America’s surgeon general did not mince words Sunday when asked what lies just ahead for the nation in its fight against the coronavirus.
“Well, it’s tragically fitting that we’re talking at the beginning of Holy Week because this is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly,” Vice Adm. Jerome Adams said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”
Adams said the level of loss will make this week comparable to what the nation endured in past American tragedies.
“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized; it’s going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that,” he said.
As of Monday, 337,933 Americans had tested positive for the virus, according to Johns Hopkins. The nation was closing in on the 10,000-death mark with 9,653 fatalities — almost a third of which have come from New York City.
Adams said that America is embattled but not helpless.
“The public, along with the state and the federal government, have the power to change the trajectory of this epidemic,” he said. “You mentioned Italy and Spain. They had a very, very hard time and they’re still having a hard time, but they seem to have reached their peak and are coming back down on the other side. And you say weeks, months behind, I would actually push back a little bit. When you look at their trajectory, from about a month ago is when they really started to lean into their aggressive mitigation efforts, their really aggressive mitigation efforts.
“So I want Americans to understand that, as hard as this week is going to be, there is a light at the end of the tunnel if everyone does their part for the next 30 days. We’re seeing Washington, actually, where this started, doing a much better job. California’s trajectory has leveled off. And so there is hope. But we’ve got to all do our part.”
Host Chris Wallace asked Adams about the wisdom of a national stay-at-home order that would lock down every state, noting that nine states do not have such orders in place.
“We live in a country where we have a system of federalism,” Adams said, noting that states maintain the power to determine public health policy within their borders.
“And we’re working with governors to figure out their needs, their desires,” he said. “One more important point: The nine states that haven’t yet done shelter-in-place orders are states that actually produce a large amount of our food. So they’re struggling with issues concerning what — how they can provide for the rest of the country to be able to stay at home.
“But right now, what I would say to those governors is, if you can’t give us a month, give us what you can. Give us a week. Give us whatever you can to stay at home during this particularly tough time when we’re going to be hitting our peak over the next seven to 10 days.”
As Wallace pushed on the subject, Adams noted that “governors are intensely protective of their right, and rightly so, to be able to decide what’s best for their states. And we’re going to do everything we can as scientists and as physicians, as medical professionals, to help them understand what we think the right thing is for them to do.”
Wallace also asked Adams why Americans should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its guidance to wears face coverings in public when President Donald Trump has said he will not wear one in the White House.
“Well, if you look at the CDC guidelines, they actually emphasize that, No. 1, they’re voluntary, and No. 2, and the most important part of this is they’re not a substitute for social distancing,” the surgeon general said. “I was at the White House yesterday. I’m going there immediately after this. The White House doctors and Secret Service are taking pains to make sure everyone is social distancing in regards to the president and the vice president and each other. And so the president is making a choice that’s appropriate for him.
“What I want Americans to know is, if you’re going out in public and you’re going to be closer than six feet to other people, you can use a cloth facial covering. And here’s mine that I made, very easy to use. And it protects you from me,” he said.
Adams released a video Friday showing how to make a simple face covering.
“We want people to understand, you’re wearing this not to protect yourself,” he said. “You’re using it to protect your neighbor. And that’s what this week is going to be all about, people staying at home to protect their neighbor, people wearing cloth facial coverings if they have to go out in public, to protect their neighbor.
“This is going to be a test of our resolve. It’s going to be the test of our lives. But I am confident that we can come out on the other side, based on the data and based on what I know about the American people.”
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