US Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaks outside the White House in March 2020. | AFP via Getty Images
US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the week to come is “going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives.”
Top public health officials warned this weekend that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States will be seen this week, a sentiment echoed by President Donald Trump.
“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment,” Adams said on Fox News Sunday. “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 repeated that warning on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, and called on individuals to “do their part” in maintaining social distancing.
“It’s going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives, and we really need to understand that if we want to flatten that curve and get through to the other side, everyone needs to do their part,” Adams said.
Meanwhile on CBS’s Face the Nation, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious diseases expert, told host Margaret Brennan that saying the federal government has Covid-19 under control “would be a false statement.”
“We are struggling to get it under control, and that’s the issue that’s at hand right now,” Fauci said.
These remarks came after Trump told reporters on Saturday that “this will be probably the toughest week.”
Trump added, “And there will be a lot of death, unfortunately.”
Although public health officials have been ringing alarm bells about the impact of novel coronavirus for weeks, the more desperate rhetoric from Adams and Fauci comes after the administration predicted on Tuesday that 240,000 Americans could die from Covid-19, even following best practices for social distancing, and said Americans can expect there to be at least 100,000 deaths.
Fauci has warned those worried about that number to keep in mind that they were created through modeling, and other experts have said they believe the estimates to be too high. Nevertheless, the government’s top public health experts have said the numbers of confirmed deaths and new cases is certain to rise dramatically this week.
“This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly,” Adams said on Fox News Sunday.
On Face the Nation, Fauci specially addressed the scope of the outbreak in New York, the state with the country’s most severe outbreak, and where more than 4,000 people have died statewide as of April 5.
“This next week is going to look bad because we’re still not at that apex,” Fauci said. “Within a week, eight, nine days or so, we’re hopefully going to see that turning around.”
And Fauci cautioned that the eight states that have not yet implemented stay-at-home orders — Utah, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Carolina — are putting themselves at risk.
“Every time I get to that podium in the White House briefing room, I plead with people to take a look at those very simple guidelines of physical separation,” Fauci said.
Those pleas — and the instructions of President Trump — have gotten through to a number of governors, like Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, who were resistant to implementing stay-at-home orders. But others, like Iowa’s Gov. Kim Reynolds, maintain such orders aren’t necessary.
“[Dr. Fauci] maybe doesn’t have all the information,” Reynolds said Friday, arguing that her orders to close schools and restaurants through the end of April are more than sufficient.
Sunday, Fauci acknowledged such measures — and practicing social distancing — will help Americans withstand the impact of “this week that’s coming up,” but stressed that taking steps now to mitigate the spread of the virus is imperative, in order to ensure the weeks at the end of April are not as tragic as the week immediately ahead.
“On the one hand, things are going to get bad, and we need to be prepared for that,” Fauci said. ”It is going to be shocking to some. It certainly is really disturbing to see that. But that’s what’s going to happen before it turns around.”
The federal government dallied for months
As of April 5, more than 300,000 coronavirus cases and more than 9,000 Covid-19 related deaths have been confirmed in the US — although those numbers likely are undercounts, due to limited diagnostic testing.
These numbers — and public health experts’ warnings — come as states continue to struggle to acquire necessary protective gear and other medical equipment needed to fight the virus. And as the Trump administration faces increasing questions about why it does not have more equipment to share with states in its emergency stockpile.
A new investigation by the Associated Press suggests one reason is that the federal government waited until mid-March to begin bulk ordering critical medical equipment, including masks and ventilators, despite having received warnings about the pandemic in January.
The lack of a central, federal clearinghouse for equipment — and the Trump administration’s position that the federal stockpile is “not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use,” as the president’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner said Thursday — has left the states competing with one another, the federal government, and other countries to buy equipment.
“You now literally will have a company call you up and say, ‘Well, California just outbid you,’” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday. “It’s like being on eBay with 50 other states, bidding on a ventilator.”
Although the virus has hit different states with different degrees of severity, there is almost no community left in the country that does not have several cases, and the virus’s contagiousness and hardiness — it can survive on surfaces much longer than a typical flu virus, for example — means that it will be impossible to get under control without severely limiting public life.
To that end, although public officials like Fauci and Adams warn about almost unimaginable future consequences — particularly in the short term — they have continued to encourage individuals to practice social distancing. Knowing how limited medical supplies are, and facing what will potentially be our worst weeks yet, Fauci said Sunday that things will improve if everyone can “just buckle down, continue to mitigate, continue to do the physical separation … we got to get through this week that’s coming up.”