Surgeon General Says Communities Must Help End Coronavirus Outbreak: 'You Are Not Helpless, America'

In an appearance on Fox News' Justice with Judge Jeanine, Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said that it would take cooperation from American communities to help end the novel coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

The question for Adams came amid a lengthy interview where show host Jeanine Pirro asked about the status of testing for COVID-19—the illness caused by the new strain of coronavirus—and what the surgeon general recommends for Americans to do to help contain the spread of the disease.

"You are not helpless, America. You can wash your hands, you can social distance and stay home. We really need to lean into protecting our most vulnerable — people with chronic and severe medical conditions, especially the elderly because we know that they are most at risk," Adams said. "We also need to understand when it comes to social distancing, if you are 30, if you are 20, if you are 15—we aren't doing these things so much to protect you because you are at low risk of having a severe complication from coronavirus. We are doing it to protect your grandmother, protect your nana, your pop-pop, your auntie and your uncle."

Adams also urged Americans to take the coronavirus seriously, challenging the country to "flatten the curve," or limiting the rate at which new cases pop up to help contain the outbreak.

"We have a choice, do we want to look more like South Korea with a lower mortality rate, or do we want to look more like Italy? If we want to look more like South Korea at the end of this then we need everyone to understand we are not going to solve this problem from Washington D.C., we're not going to solve it from the CDC in Atlanta," Adams told Pirro. "It's going to be solved at the community level and it's going to be solved by people coming together. So really what I was trying to say is I want people to use their energy, particularly in these next few weeks to push the information out to people so that they can use it to protect themselves."

Both South Korea and Italy have been hot spots for cases of COVID-19. According to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University, the Asian nation has 8,086 cases in total, however, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported Friday that the country has seen only 110 new cases this week, while 177 people have recovered from the virus, an indicator that the worst of the epidemic has passed and the spread of the disease is waning.

However, Italy has reported 21,157 cases according to the tracker, placing the country behind China in terms of cases, as well as deaths. In China, over 80,000 people have been infected and 3,085 people have died. The death toll in Italy stands at 1,441.

South Korea has been praised in recent days for the efforts put into mass testing—a report from the Los Angeles Times indicates the country can test up to 12,000 people a day, including via drive-thru testing stops—and how the availability of those tests and social distancing has helped contain the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has tested around 12,000 people nationwide in a two week period.

"We hope that we will be able to get to a place where more and more people can get testing in their home communities and not have to drive far to be able to get testing results back quickly," Adams told Pirro when asked about the state of testing for COVID-19 in the U.S. "But again it's important to understand we are not South Korea, we do not have top to bottom control over a lot of health care sectors, so we are going to rely a lot on private markets. And I believe they'll innovate, I believe you'll see drive-thru testing in many areas."

According to Business Insider, seven states, including Washington and New York who combine for 1,255 of the country's 2,952 cases, have drive-thru clinics in certain cities. On Friday, President Donald Trump said in a press conference that more of these clinics would be available in the coming days, though he did not specify where or how many would be utilized to help with testing.

Testing in the U.S. for COVID-19 has been limited as various delays and missteps have resulted in a shortage of tests for those exhibiting symptoms, prompting strict guidelines for medical professionals regarding who can and cannot be tested.

Adams assured Pirro that the U.S. government is addressing the problem and that Adm. Brett Giroir will serve as a testing 'czar' for the Trump administration, overseeing coordination between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and state and local municipalities.

"There have been problems with testing...but we feel that we are in a good place now through partnerships with private industry. What people need to understand is in our country the CDC was never designed to be able to provide testing for hundreds of millions of people. We always knew if we were going to be in the situation that we would have to rely on the ingenuity and innovation and the talent in the private sector," Adams said. "I feel a lot better about the direction we are going into. It's not mission accomplished but know that we are leaning into this."

Jeanine Pirro
Fox News host Jeanine Pirro interviews Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams about the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States during the March 14, 2020 episode of 'Justice with Judge Jeanine.' Fox News