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Surgeon general: U.S. facing 'our Pearl Harbor,' '9/11 moment'

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said this week

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said this week will be "our Pearl Harbor moment and our 9/11 moment." Credit: AP/Alex Brandon

WASHINGTON — U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Sunday warned “this is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives,” as the number of COVID-19 related deaths continues to soar.

“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment and our 9/11 moment only it’s not going to be localized, it’s going to be happening all over the country,” Adams said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

Adams’ warning came as Trump Administration officials making the rounds of the Sunday morning political talk shows continued to urge Americans to practice social distancing guidelines.

“There is hope but we’ve also got to all do our part,” Adams said.

Adams, in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” encouraged Americans to use face coverings when out in public, but said people should not "substitute social distancing with face masks."

President Donald Trump on Friday announced his administration recommended Americans use "non-medical cloth" face masks to minimize exposure to the respiratory virus when out.

Asked about states that had yet to implement stay-at-home orders, Adams made an appeal to governors in those states: “If you can’t give us 30 days, governors, give us, give us a week, give us what you can, so that we don’t overwhelm our health care systems over this next week.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a lead member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said the nation was “struggling” to get the spread of cases under control, and urged Americans to continue to follow the social distancing guidelines put in place by the federal government.

“I will not say we have it under control, we are struggling to get it under control,” Fauci told CBS’ “Face the Nation.

Fauci said although social distancing efforts showed there was an “improvement” in reducing the number of new cases, “the deaths will lag by one or two weeks or more. So we need to be prepared that even though it’s clear that mitigation is working, we’re still going to see that tail off of deaths.”

He also warned that "unless we get this globally under control, there's a very good chance that it will assume a seasonal nature."

“We need to be prepared that since it unlikely will be completely eradicated from the planet, that as we get into next season, we may see the beginning of a resurgence, and that’s the reason why we’re pushing so hard in getting our preparedness much better than it was,” Fauci said.

As Adams and Fauci called on states to abide by federal social distancing guidelines, the governors of several states continued to criticize Trump’s stewardship over the crisis, saying the federal government needed to take the lead on coordinating the distribution of supplies as states continue to compete for the purchase of much-needed medical equipment and gear.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, appearing on “Meet the Press” said: “It literally is a global jungle that we’re competing in now. I’d like to see a better way, but that’s the reality in which we are.”

Gov. Jay Inslee (D- Wash.), whose state was the first hardest hit in the nation, used Adams’ comparing the current crisis to Pearl Harbor to make the case that the federal government needed to do more. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have repeatedly said the role of the federal government is to back state efforts.

“The surgeon general referred to Pearl Harbor. Can you imagine if Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, ‘We’ll be right behind you, Connecticut. Good luck building those battleships?’ ” Inslee said on “Meet the Press.”

Asked about the impact of the fast spreading virus on the U.S. military, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” said the Department of Defense will “take every measure to protect our troops," and will “move toward” encouraging military personnel to wear face coverings.

“All the units report that they're very capable,” Esper said. "They remain very ready. We have had to cancel exercises. We have had to constrain basic training, for example, but we think those are all manageable. It's important that our adversaries know and that the American people know that we're on the watch. We are prepared to defend them and defend our interests abroad.”

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