The next two weeks will be crucial in the United States’ fight against the coronavirus, warn health officials, who are urging Americans to continue practicing social-distancing measures.
Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, the US surgeon general, likened the coming week to a Pearl Harbor or 9/11 moment, saying on “Fox News Sunday” it would be the “hardest and the saddest week in most Americans’ lives.”
The number of cases nationwide Sunday climbed to at least 337,274 with at least 9,633 dead, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Of those deaths, 1,344 were reported Saturday — the most fatalities recorded in the US in a single day.
Despite the rising numbers and grim warnings from health officials, President Donald Trump said in a White House briefing Sunday evening, “We are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
His comments were echoed by Vice President Mike Pence, who said, “We are beginning to see the glimmers of progress.”
Asked about the apparent dissonance in messages from administration officials, Trump said, “I think we all know we have to reach a certain point, and that point is going to be a horrific point in terms of death, but it’s also a point at which things are going to start changing.”
“We’re getting very close to that level right now,” the President said, “and the next week and a half, two weeks, I think they’re going to be very difficult.”
Earlier in the day, appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases conceded it “would be a false statement” to say the US has the pandemic under control.
“We are struggling to get it under control,” Fauci said.
But Fauci told reporters at the White House briefing that a lag in the disease explained the apparent contradiction between a positive long-term outlook and the expectation of a bad week ahead.
“So, right now we’re seeing — as we all said correctly — that this is probably going to be a really bad week. That is a reflection of what happened two and a half weeks ago. So if we start seeing now a flattening or stabilization of cases — what you’re hearing about, potential light at the end of the tunnel — doesn’t take away from the fact that tomorrow, the next day, is going to look really bad.”
Fauci continued to stress the importance of social distancing measures. On Saturday he pointed to Washington state, where such measures appear to be paying off.
The Boston Department of Health issued a public health advisory Sunday recommending residents — except for those deemed essential workers — stay home from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., beginning Monday, Mayor Marty Walsh said.
Additionally, everyone is encouraged to wear a face covering when in public, a step that aligns with the White House’s recommendation Friday that Americans wear face masks — though Trump said the recommendation was voluntary.
“If you don’t agree with me or you don’t believe me or the governor or someone else, just turn the TV on,” Walsh said. “Watch the number of lives that are being lost every day to this virus.”
Still, modeling cited by White House officials this week project that, even with stringent mitigation efforts, between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans will die from coronavirus. And President Trump has refrained from a nationwide stay-at-home order, preferring to leave it to states to decide.