Mar 23, 2020
Surgeon General Jerome Adams Interview Transcript: COVID-19 “Gonna Get Bad” This Week
Surgeon General Jerome Adams did an interview this morning, saying of the coronavirus crisis, “This week, it’s gonna get bad.” Read the full transcript of his March 23 interview right here.
Savannah Guthrie: (00:00)
We’re joined now live by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. Dr. Adams, good morning. Good to see you again, sir.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (00:06)
Good morning. I didn’t expect that I’d be on the Today Show for such a somber occasion. I want America to understand, this week it’s going to get bad, and we really need to come together as a nation. I heard the story that you were just playing, young people out on beaches. We see here in D.C. that the District set up a cam for people to watch the cherry blossoms. You look on the cam, you see more people walking around than you see cherry blossoms. This is how the spread is occurring, and so we really, really need everyone to stay at home.
Savannah Guthrie: (00:43)
You don’t think people are taking it seriously?
Dr. Jerome Adams: (00:45)
I think that there are a lot of people who are doing the right things, but I think that unfortunately we’re finding out a lot of people think this can’t happen to them. When you look at what’s going on in New York… We said this at the beginning of our 15 Days to Stop the Spread initiative, that the numbers you see reflect what happened two weeks ago. We don’t want Dallas or New Orleans or Chicago to turn into the next New York, and it means everyone needs to be taking the right steps right now, and that means stay at home.
Savannah Guthrie: (01:14)
I hear the urgency in your voice, sir. I wanted to ask you actually because the president tweeted just last night around midnight, and he said, and I can put it up on the screen, “We cannot let the cure be worse than the disease. At the end of the 15-day period, we will decide which way we want to go.” What does that mean?
Dr. Jerome Adams: (01:35)
Well, it means that our 15 Days to Stop the Spread initiative really was based on the fact that, when it came out a week ago, we were about two weeks behind Italy, and we really hoped to instill a sense of urgency across America. That includes pulling down elective surgery cases, and I have an op-ed about that. That includes our social distancing measures, stay at home, don’t take any unnecessary travel, avoid groups of larger than 10. That includes not teleworking. And again, there are parts of the country that are doing it, but these mitigation measures work preventatively. They work best the earlier you do them, and people are still reacting and waiting to see spread before they decide to get serious.
Savannah Guthrie: (02:14)
Well, we talked last week, Dr. Adams, and you acknowledged that it’s likely going to have to be more than 15 days that we take these measures, and again, this is the hazard of trying to interpret a tweet, but it sounded like the president was at least considering ending these measures after the 15-day period, when he says, “At the end of the 15-day period, we will decide which way we want to go. We don’t want the cure to be worse than the disease.” That sounds like he’s worried that what we’re doing to stop it is worse than the virus itself, so where do you come down on that?
Dr. Jerome Adams: (02:46)
Well, Savannah, as the nation’s doctor, I’m here to help America understand how we need to respond to this. Where I come down is that every single day counts, every single second counts, and right now there are enough people out there who are taking this seriously. You just see it looking in California, people on the beaches. You see it in Washington D.C., the people out looking at the cherry blossoms. We need to take this seriously.
Savannah Guthrie: (03:15)
We’ve talked a lot about that graphic, everybody’s seen it now, about flattening the curve. This is the effort we’re all collectively involved in right now. If we’re not testing as much as we could be, how will we know? What’s your progress report on where we are on flattening the curve when you have places like New York state saying, “We’re not testing you anymore unless you come in here to the hospital”? So if you’re not testing, how will we know if these measures are working?
Dr. Jerome Adams: (03:41)
Well, that’s a great question. I had a tweet out yesterday where I pointed out last week, if you look at Monday to Friday, testing increased by tenfold. Testing has definitely significantly increased across the country. Here’s the problem. We aren’t testing the people who are at highest risk right now, and it’s why yesterday you heard the vice president say, and you heard me say, that we need to make sure we’re prioritizing testing for our healthcare workers. We need to take care of the people who take care of the people, for people in hospitals and for people who are at highest risk right now.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (04:14)
But as Tony Fauci has said many times, and people have heard me say this too, everyone needs to act as if they have the virus right now. Test or no test, we need you to understand you could be spreading it to someone else or you could be getting it from someone else. Stay at home.
Savannah Guthrie: (04:32)
In New York, the governor, New York is the place where they have the most cases right now in this country, said more than half the cases they have right now, 53% were actually young people between the ages of 18 and 49, which of course is very different than the earlier understandings of this virus. Are young people more at risk than previously thought?
Dr. Jerome Adams: (04:53)
Well, so far the demography definitely seems to be very different in the United States versus in other countries that saw this hit earlier, and we’re looking into that. There are theories that it could be because we know we have a higher proportion of people in the United States and also in Italy who vape. We don’t know if that’s the only cause, but it’s important for young people to know you can get this disease, you can be hospitalized from this disease, you can die from this disease, but most importantly, you can spread it to your loved ones, and so we need you to really lean in.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (05:27)
It’s why I reached out and I want to give a shout-out to Kylie Jenner, who stepped up last week and sent out a message. My daughter and my son said, “Dad, make sure you call out Loren Gray,” and I believe it’s Roman Atwood, making sure we are really reaching out to these social media influencers who don’t listen to the surgeon general, who don’t go to surgeongeneral.com, but are on YouTube and TikTok and need to understand, hey, this is serious, and this includes you.
Savannah Guthrie: (05:53)
Yeah, I hope we’re getting the message out. Doctors, nurses, and hospital staff have a message too. They are begging for protective equipment. So far, the president has resisted invoking the Defense Production Act. He’s activated it, but he’s not using it yet. He’s resisted that. He’s not sure that’s the right thing to do. From where you stand as a medical professional yourself, if doctors and nurses are begging for these kinds of equipment, is it time to, not ask, tell companies to start helping in the manufacture of this life-saving equipment?
Dr. Jerome Adams: (06:24)
Well, a couple of things there. These are my colleagues, these are my friends, and I’m getting texts all through the night, every minute from people, and I want you all to know as surgeon general and as your colleague, I will not rest, I have not rested, I won’t rest until we make sure the people who are taking care of the people get what they need to stay safe.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (06:43)
Now, you asked about the Defense Production Act. Here’s the thing that people don’t understand. You don’t need to compel someone to do something they are already doing. We talked to 3M, we talked to Honeywell, and they are at max production. We’re working with Hanes. We’d never would have thought, if you’d invoked the Defense Production Act, to go to a Hanes. We’re really relying on people to do what they’re doing, but you don’t need to compel people to do what they’re already doing.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (07:07)
The other important point is that we’re not going to ventilate our way out of this problem. We’re not going to treat our way out of this problem. The way you stop the spread of an infectious disease like this is with mitigation measures and preventing people from getting it in the first place. While we are focusing on supply, we also need to focus on driving down demand this week. We need more people talking about, hey, stay at home.
Savannah Guthrie: (07:31)
Yeah. All right. Dr. Jerome Adams, thank you so much. I would mention that organizations like the American Hospital Association are asking for the Defense Production Act to be invoked, so we’ll see where that all shakes out-
Dr. Jerome Adams: (07:45)
Savannah Guthrie: (07:45)
… this week. Thank you.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (07:47)
We’re making sure supplies are available. If you’re healthy, you still can go out and donate blood. Don’t forget that.
Savannah Guthrie: (07:53)
Yes. Always a good reminder, sir. Thank you so much. In these busy times, appreciate your time this morning.