Surgeon General Urges Caution for Protesters, Especially Those With Vulnerable Loved Ones: 'Know Your Risk'

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams advised caution for protesters Thursday amid the coronavirus pandemic, specifically for those who have vulnerable loved ones at home.

"If you are going to go out, know your risk and know how to stay safe," Adams said during an interview with Politico's 'Pulse Check' podcast. "If you choose to go out in that setting, you need to understand whether or not you are someone who is at higher risk, someone with chronic diseases, someone who is older. Again, 94 percent of mortality is over the age of 60."

Adams added: "You need to understand if you're living with someone who is at risk, because the last thing you'd want to do is go out and protest and then bring coronavirus home to your vulnerable loved ones, and have them ultimately succumb to it."

Adams' comments came as he was asked by podcast host Dan Diamond about a previous story Diamond wrote that talks about public health officials across the U.S. encouraging the ongoing protests following George Floyd's death--despite the risk of spreading the virus.

U.S. Surgeon General
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams speaks during an event on protecting seniors with diabetes, in the Rose Garden at the White House on May 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty

In the story, Diamond cited a tweet written by Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist from Johns Hopkins University: "We should always evaluate the risks and benefits of efforts to control the virus. In this moment the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus."

We should always evaluate the risks and benefits of efforts to control the virus. In this moment the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus. https://t.co/s9DagyjQ1J

— Jennifer Nuzzo, DrPH (@JenniferNuzzo) June 2, 2020

Nuzzo's comments echoed a similar tweet posted by Tom Frieden, the former director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in which he wrote: "The threat to Covid control from protesting outside is tiny compared to the threat to Covid control created when governments act in ways that lose community trust. People can protest peacefully AND work together to stop Covid. Violence harms public health."

Speaking on the 'Pulse Check' podcast, Adams said: "I understand the anger, the frustration, the fear and why people feel that they need to prioritize going out and protesting."

Adams also spoke about Floyd, who died in police custody on May 25 after being held down by now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's knee--and how as a black man in America, Adams could have faced a similar situation.

"I look at him [Floyd] and I really do think 'That could have been me,'" he said. "That could be me pulled over for speeding 5 miles over the speed limit, that could be me with a busted taillight, that could be me who is just seen as a black man--and not as the Surgeon General of the United States, especially if I'm not wearing a uniform, but I'm casually dressed in my hoodie and tennis shoes."

"That could be me on the side of a road with a knee in my neck," Adams added. "I have been pulled over in my life for very minimal offenses. I have been questioned in grocery stores, and in shopping centers by security guards for things that I did not do."

Newsweek reached out to the Surgeon General for further comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.