Top public health officials warned this weekend that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States will be seen this week.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the virus would be catastrophic this week and that its effects will be felt throughout the country.
“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.
President Trump told reporters “There will be a lot of death, unfortunately.”
Although public health officials have been ringing alarm bells for weeks about the impact of the novel coronavirus, 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 those numbers 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.
Fauci specifically addressed the scope of the outbreak in New York, the state with the country’s most severe outbreak, 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 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.”
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 testing.
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 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.”
Click here to learn more about social distancing, quarantine, and isolation from the CDC.