COVID-19: Surgeon general warns U.S. approaching ‘9/11 moment’ this week

Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

April 5 (UPI) — U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome Adams delivered a grim warning Sunday, saying the upcoming week is projected to include an increase in new COVID-19 cases and deaths comparable to past national tragedies.

Adams, appearing on Fox News Sunday, noted that the death toll from the coronavirus has not yet reached its peak, which members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force have said could be approaching within the next week.

“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,” he said. “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.”

There were 332,594 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 9,504 deaths in the United States as of Sunday afternoon — a 12.4 percent increase, according to figures by John’s Hopkins University. So far Sunday, that is 1,052 more deaths and 21,237 more cases in one day.

On Saturday, the death toll rose 1,331.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose state has become a hot spot for the virus with the most deaths in the country, said Sunday he believes the state may be at or near the peak of its cases.

Cuomo said that 302,280 people have been tested for the coronavirus in New York, 122,031 have tested positive, 16,479 people are currently hospitalized and 4,159 people have died from the virus, including an additional 594 cases Sunday. New York’s deaths fell for the first time one day after reporting 630 Saturday.

“We’re looking at this seriously now, because by the data we could be either very near the apex, or the apex could be a plateau and we could be on that plateau right now,” he said. “We don’t know until we see the next few days — does it go up, does it go down — but that is what the statisticians will tell you today.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday said that the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort, which have been deployed to both U.S. coasts, could open up to coronavirus patients in New York City and Los Angeles if necessary.

“If the virus gets so bad in New York City or L.A. that we need to, we’ll certainly be prepared to open them up to coronavirus patients,” he said on ABC News’ This Week. “We just don’t want trauma patients to become coronavirus patients.”

Adjacent New Jersey reported an additional 71 cases Sunday to climb to 917, the second in the nation.

“After multiple conversations with the White House, we’ve secured an additional 500 ventilators,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy posted on Twitter in Sunday. “Ventilators are our #1 need right now. I won’t stop fighting to get us the equipment we need to save every life we can.”

Michigan and Florida have also seen surges in coronavirus cases. On Sunday, Michigan reached 617 deaths, which is an increase of 77, and 15,091 cases, and Florida climbed to 12,151 confirmed cases and 218 deaths on Sunday. Florida updates its data in the evening.

In Florida, 21 percent of the population is 65 and older, according to U.S. Census projections. South Florida has been especially hard hit with 123 fatalities, including 49 alone in Palm Beach County.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker both told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that their states are projected to experience a peak in coronavirus cases this month and that they lack the supply of ventilators and other medical equipment to properly handle the situation.

Edwards said the state, which had 12,496 cases of the virus and 477 reported deaths Sunday, which is an inrease of 68 in one day, projects to run out of ventilators by April 9 and exceed bed capacity in its hospitals by as early as April 11 unless it is able to reduce the number of cases.

“We hope we can continue a downward trend on the rate of transmission of new cases,” he said. “That buys us a little more time. And, as I mentioned, that means a fewer number of people will present on any given day and not be given the opportunity to access a bed or a ventilator, should they need them.”

Illinois on Sunday reached 10,932 cases and 274 cases — an increase of 31 fatalities — as Pritzker said the state is projected to experience a peak over the next two weeks and delivering a strong rebuke of President Donald Trump and the federal government for not issuing a national order for Americans to remain at home as at least eight states have not done so on their own.

“We are one nation here. The virus knows no borders and so it was up to the federal government, to begin with, to advise and to ask all the governors to put in stay-at-home orders,” said Pritzker. “Those governors, Republican governors, would have done it much earlier if the president had suggested it much earlier.”

The governors of nine states, all Republicans, hadn’t issued statewide stay-at-home orders for all ages — Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming. Missouri’s order takes affect Monday.

Trump has repeatedly said he will allow states to issue their own orders, and Adams said Sunday that guidelines for social distancing shared by the task force represent the federal stance on coronavirus response, saying that issuing a national order presents difficulties in regards to states’ rights.

“It’s why we put out these 30 days to stop the spread guidelines. These are essentially our national stay-at-home order,” Adams said. “And we’re working with governors to figure out their needs, their desires.”

Adams added that Americans, including those in states without stay-at-home orders can “change the trajectory” of the pandemic, emphasizing the importance of remaining at home this week in particular.

“This is going to be a test of our resolve,” Adams said. “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.”

Like the surgeon general, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it will be a “bad week as there is an escalation of cases,” despite measure to curt the spread of the disease, which has no vaccine.

“Will not say we have it under control,” Fauci said on CBS’s Face the Nation. That would be a false statement. We are struggling to get it under control, and that’s the issue that’s at hand right now.

“The thing that’s important is that what you see is increases in new cases, which then start to flatten out. But the end result of that you don’t see for days or weeks down the pipe.”


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