WASHINGTON - U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has been at the forefront of the nation's fight against the coronavirus.
In recent weeks he has told Americans to brace for the levels of tragedy reminiscent of the Sept. 11 attacks and the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
He joined FOX 5 on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.
"I want to give a shout out to all the health care workers out there," Adams said when he joined us Wednesday saying he had just spoken to the chief surgeon at New York University. "There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We are seeing in New York and New Jersey cases are slowing down. Hospitalizations are actually going down and it's coincident with people starting aggressive social distancing and mitigation about three weeks ago."
"I want people to know that if you do these things, they actually do work," he said. "We have proof that they're working right here in the United States and now is the time for us to double down on our efforts because the more we do it, the fewer people will be hurt and the quicker we'll get out to the other side."
"I believe that this is going to be a memorable moment -- something people will tell their grandkids about. But we know that after tragic moments in history, Americans really galvanized. Pearl Harbor was a tragic moment but it was also a moment when America finally got involved in the war and said, 'Hey we can do this!'" the Surgeon General said.
Adams said one of the most important things everyone needs to understand is that the coronavirus spreads person to person and the way we protect our health care workers is by not getting sick in the first place. One way to help prevent the spread is to stay home.
Cities across the nation have closed restaurants, bars and schools over the last several weeks in an effort to fight the outbreak. Health officials have prohibited large gatherings, closed parks and advised citizens to stay home unless going out for an essential reason.
The Surgeon General said the latest data suggests the majority of Americans – as many as 90 percent -- are following rules laid out to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus by staying home. "To the ten percent out there who aren't, please, understand that the way we defeat this disease is at the community level. The public has the power to change the trajectory of this epidemic."
Adams, a native of southern Maryland, agrees that the D.C. region is a potential hot spot for the coronavirus and said African-American are more at risk. "African-Americans are at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 and we know we have a higher proportion of African-Americans in the PG county area and in the D.C. area."
Adams said connecting with media influencers and sports stars would help spread the message of staying home and stopping the spread. "At the end of the day, some people out there just aren't going to listen to the Surgeon General -- including my kids," Adams said. "But they will listen to Kylie Jenner. They'll listen to Kevin Durant. They'll listen to the Nationals and to the Wizards and those folks out there telling them to stay at home. That's what we need more of."
The Surgeon General said the nation's capital and the D.C. metro region can determine their own outcome. "It is up to you," he said. "I love the fish market. I love seeing the cherry blossoms. but this is the year this is the time to stay at home so we can get through to the other side."
"Instead of focusing on what happened in the past, I'm more focused on what's happening going forward," Surgeon General Adams said when asked if the U.S. acted soon enough to combat the coronavirus outbreak. "We actually have the power to change the trajectory of this epidemic moving forward and then we'll plan on what we need to do for the next epidemic."
Adams agrees with CDC recommendations that call for wearing face coverings in public where social distancing is difficult to maintain. "It is not is substitute for social distancing," he said. "Just because you have a face mask or a cloth facing covering on doesn't mean you can go out to the fish market or go out around people. This virus spreads person to person. The way you defeat by separating people."
The Surgeon General said the administration is doing all it can to reallocate and redistribute resources at the local level. "I hear all the time about colleagues who are over worked and overwhelmed and can't get PPE and then I hear about colleagues who are saying they sent me home yesterday because they don't have enough work for me to do," he said. Adams said this "mismatch" needs to be solved at a local level with support from Washington, D.C.
As for a return to normalcy -- Adams says it's up to us. "If we all do the right things I feel pretty good about us being back to some semblance of normality definitely by September," he answered when asked a viewer question about if a fall wedding would be out of the question. "But it's also important to know that this is going to be a new normal," he added, saying hand hygiene and paying attention to large crowds will become a new reality.
"But I feel pretty good about planning a wedding in September. So I would say go ahead and go forward," he said optimistically. "We do have to think about how we continue with life. How we remain healthy while we're social distancing right now -- and part of that is making sure you have things to look forward to."