Surgeon general implores holdout governors to 'give us a week'

"Give us what you can so that we don't overwhelm our health care systems over this next week," Jerome Adams said Sunday on "Meet the Press."

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Ben Kamisar

WASHINGTON — Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Sunday called on governors who haven't issued statewide stay-at-home orders to combat the spread of the coronavirus to at least "give us a week" of restrictions as health officials warned of an accelerating rate of infections and deaths.

Asked for his message to governors who haven't yet issued such drastic orders, Adams called on them to follow the administration's guidelines, which include measures like avoiding social gatherings and discretionary travel.

"The next week is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment. It's going to be our 9/11 moment. It's going to be the hardest moment for many Americans in their entire lives. And we really need to understand that if we want to flatten that curve and get through to the other side, everyone needs to do their part," he said in an interview on "Meet the Press."

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

"Ninety percent of Americans are doing their part, even in the states where they haven't had a shelter-in-place. But if you can't give us 30 days, governors, give us a week, give us what you can so that we don't overwhelm our health care systems over this next week, and then let's reassess."

Adams stopped short of calling for a national stay-at-home order, adding that "governors are rightly protective of their ability to determine what's best for their citizens" and that it's up to the experts to give governors "the science to make the best recommendations." But he said the best way to fight the spread of the virus is to overprepare.

"We are always telling people we would rather prevent disease than treat disease. I tell people we aren't going to treat or supply our way out of this problem. There is no magic bullet or magic cure. It's good old-fashioned public health and prevention," Adams said.

There have been at least 8,400 U.S. deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic and at least 309,700 cases in the country, according to NBC News. And as the virus continues to spread across the country, public health experts are updating their guidance in the spirit of caution, including a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation for people to cover their faces when they go out in public.

But while the vast majority of states have ordered their residents to stay home to fight the spread, a handful haven't.

Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., one of the governors who hasn't issued such an order, said on "Meet the Press" moments after Adams' interview that the surgeon general made "great comments" and that Arkansas is "doing everything the surgeon general has outlined, plus more."

"In Arkansas. we have a targeted approach that is very strict. We've closed bars, restaurants, schools, some of our park lodges. We are emphasizing social distancing, and we will do more as we need to," he said.

Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

As for a stay-at-home order, Hutchinson said that because hundreds of thousands of Arkansans will still have to go into work regardless, "it's more important a message that: Do your social distancing, don't gather in groups of more than 10 people and bring a mask with you."

But Jay Inslee, D-Wash., one of the first governors to issue a stay-at-home order, disagreed. He said early data show that the state has had "some success" slowing the rate of infection, pointing to the early intervention as a reason.

And he added that he believes a holistic approach by the entire country would be the best protection, because "even though you are looking OK today, it can bite you big time tomorrow."

"I think it would be good to have a national stay-at-home order, and the reason is: Even if Washington gets on top of this fully, if another state doesn't, it can come back and come across our borders two months from now," he said.