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US Surgeon general warns coronavirus is ‘going to get bad’ this week

U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, addresses his remarks at a coronavirus update briefing Monday, March 9, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)
March 23, 2020

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams warned that the coronavirus outbreak is likely to get worse this week.

Adams delivered his warning during an interview Monday on NBC’s “Today” show. He said the spread of coronavirus is likely to get worse as a result of people not adhering to guidelines to stay home and practice social distancing.

“I want America to understand this week, it’s going to get bad,” Adams said.

Last week President Donald Trump issued an advisory “15 Days to Slow the Spread” aimed at encouraging people to stay home, avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people, avoid eating in restaurants and bars and avoid other discretionary travel.

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Adams said the disease will get worse because people, especially younger generations, are not taking the administration’s guidance seriously. In particular, he noted reports of people crowding onto beaches in California and going out to see the cherry blossoms on Washington D.C.’s National Mall.

“Right now, there are not enough people out there who are taking this seriously,” Adams went on, describing his concern.

Adams advised young people to consider that while their risk from coronavirus appears lower, they can contract the virus and even face life threatening conditions or death.

“Everyone needs to act as if they have the virus right now. So, test or no test, we need you to understand you could be spreading it to someone else,” Adams said. “Or you could be getting it from someone else. Stay at home.”

The number of U.S. coronavirus cases has passed 35,000 as of Monday, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus case tracking map. Those numbers place the U.S. as the country with the third highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, behind China at over 81,000 and Italy at over 59,000.

In total, 471 U.S. coronavirus cases have been fatal so far.

Adams also faced questions about the Defense Production Act during his interview. The act empowers the U.S. government to direct the activities of private companies to produce goods deemed critical to U.S. security. Adams was asked why the Trump administration had not yet used the act to bring private companies on to produce medical equipment.

“Here’s the thing that people don’t understand. You don’t need to compel someone to do something they are already doing,” Adams said.

Adams said private companies like Honeywell and Hanes are already producing key items in short supply. Adams went on to emphasize that the U.S. can’t necessarily rely on production to overcome the disease.

“We’re not going to ventilator our way out of this problem. We’re not going to treat our way out of this problem,” he said. “The way you stop the spread of an infectious disease like this is with mitigation measures and preventing people from getting it in the first place.”