Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the coronavirus pandemic rivals some of the darkest moments in U.S. history, including the two worst foreign attacks on American soil: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly,” Adams told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “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.”
Adams stressed that people and the government still have the “power to change the trajectory of this epidemic” and that there is hope that the worst projections can be avoided if Americans follow strict social distancing guidelines.
“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,” Adams said.
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There are more than 312,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the USA and more than 8,500 have died from the disease, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Saturday, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said she expected death tolls to rise quickly in the coming week.
“It’s going to be a very deadly period, unfortunately,” President Donald Trump said at a White House news conference.
In an effort to ensure that their citizens practice social distancing, most governors have issued stay-at-home orders restricting all but essential activities. Nine governors have resisted such a move, prompting many to call for Trump to issue an order for people to stay home across the USA.
Adams, repeating his defense of the administration’s decision not to issue such an order, said that under the U.S. system of federalism, such a move should be left up to the states.
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The surgeon general said the administration’s guidelines, which call for strict social distancing until at least April 30, “are essentially our national stay-at-home order.”
“It’s important to understand that most people across the country are doing the right thing,” Adams said. “Over 90% of the country is staying at home. And a good proportion, more than average, are staying at home even in those nine states.”
He said those nine states where a stay-at-home order hasn’t been issued “actually produce a large amount of our food” and are balancing the need to “provide for the rest of the country” with the need to avoid spreading the virus.
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“The governors are intensely protective of their right, and rightly so, to be able to decide what’s best for their states,” he said. “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.”
Adams said governors resisting a stay-at-home order can help if they are willing to “give us what you can” in terms of asking people to stay home.
“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,” he said. “I just want everyone to know that, from a national perspective, the surgeon general was saying, no matter where you are, stay at home. At least give us a week or two, if you can. We want you to do it for 30 days, but even in those nine states, give us what you can, so we can get this peak and start to come down on the other side.”
Contributing: Michael Collins, John Fritze and David Jackson