Surgeon General: “Most of the country” won’t be open on May 1 — based on testing and surveillance

A bit of messaging dissonance at the White House, or perhaps some expectation lowering? As Allahpundit noted this morning, Donald Trump made it sound yesterday as though testing and viral surveillance were not going to be critical obstacles to America’s grand re-opening on May 1. By this morning, Surgeon General Jerome Adams not only said both would be necessary prerequisites, he also emphasized that re-opening was a process and not an event.

“Some places will be able to think about opening on May 1,” Adams said on Fox’s America’s Newsroom, but “most of the country” would need to wait:

Surgeon General Jerome Adams acknowledged Friday most Americans will not be able to resume their normal lives on May 1, when the Trump administration’s guidelines aimed at countering the spread of the coronavirus in the United States are set to expire.

In an interview on Fox News, Adams said the administration would be “data-driven” in determining when to reopen the country, and stressed that “now is the time for us to continue to lean into” the social-distancing recommendations first issued in mid-March and extended last week until the end of April.

“There are places around the country that have seen consistently low levels. And as we ramp up testing and can feel more confident that these places actually can do surveillance and can do public health follow-up, some places will be able to think about opening on May 1,” Adams said.

“Most of the country will not, to be honest with you, but some will,” he continued, “And that’s how we’ll reopen the country: place by place, bit by bit, based on the data.”

Adams doesn’t sound like he’s raring to go on May 1. He lays out specific standards for reopening, including surveillance-level testing capacity of at least 1:100 in the population. That’s the necessary level to make sure we can contain specific hot-spot outbreaks before they get too large, Adams notes, in the same way we try to contain tuberculosis and measles, although we only recently started to worry about that again as people decline vaccinations against it.

Speaking of which, it’s notable what Adams doesn’t include in a re-opening process — a cure or vaccine. Some health experts want a shutdown until we have those in hand, but that might take one or two years to have in hand. That’s not going to work at all, and is unnecessary for a disease with a mortality rate of 1-2%. Effective treatment and sufficient health-care capacity will probably be sufficient, with high-risk Americans advised to avoid the public square as much as possible until a vaccine emerges.

We’re probably going to reach those goals in some places by May 1, as Adams says. along with flattened curves that suggest the logarithmic spread of COVID-19 has been arrested. That will come “place by place, bit by bit, based on the data.”

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