U.S. Surgeon General tells TMJ4 News why the next 30 days are critical

Charles Benson's exclusive with Dr. Jerome Adams
Posted at 8:29 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 21:29:48-04

With COVID-19 spreading faster in Wisconsin, many people are wondering if they should be wearing masks or facial coverings.

TMJ4's Charles Benson asked about that during an exclusive interview with the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams:

Charles Benson's full interview with U.S. Surgeon General

"Originally, the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization and my office recommended against the general public wearing masks," said Adams. "We looked at the preponderance of the best data available at that time, and it was not compelling that masks prevented you from catching COVID-19."

But Adams says that may now be changing.

"Emerging data suggest there is a fair amount of asymptotic spread, which means people don't know they have it, and they're spreading it. So we've asked CDC to take a look at whether or not advising more people wear masks will prevent them from spreading COVID-19 to others."

The Surgeon General stressed you wouldn't need an N95 mask. Those are desperately needed for healthcare workers. He also says facial coverings are not a substitute for social distancing.

But Adams tells TMJ4 there are signs that mitigation efforts are working even though the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths will go up, with as many as 100,000 to 240,000 people dying.

Dr. Adams: So we feel confident that if people really lean into the next three to four weeks, these 30 days to stop the spread - we can flatten our curve and not overwhelm our health care systems and ultimately come out the other side with as few people dying as possible.

Benson talked with U.S Surgeon General Dr. Jermone Adams from his new work-at-home studio.

Dr. Adams: I did a phone call with NAACP. I also did a phone call with the National Medical Association - which is the Black Doctors Association, and here's what I told them. Black, white, yellow, brown whatever color you identify with - you can get COVID-19, and it's important for people to know that.

But, he says some African Americans do have higher risks.

"The two biggest risk factors are advanced age and chronic diseases, heart disease lung disease and diabetes, and unfortunately, the African American population has those co-morbidities at a higher rate," said Adams. "So, they are, at essence, more at risk for COVID-19 than other populations."

The Surgeon General tells TMJ4 News coronavirus testing is ramping up with now more than 100,000 a day. Wisconsin says it's currently testing 2,000 a day but hopes to double that soon.

Dr. Adams: As far as testing is concerned, we have a testing task force, and their job is to look around the country, make sure we are getting testing equitably distributed to places that most need it from a diagnostic point of view.

For now, that means limiting trips to the grocery store. It also means staying six feet from anyone while walking in the park or anywhere else.

"Basketball? No, absolutely not," said Dr. Adams. "I don't know how you play basketball, but when I play basketball, you can't play it six feet away from the nearest person - so we want to minimize that contact within six feet of another person so we can stop the spread."

There's still no time table on when we will all be able to get back to our routine or regular schedules.

Right now, we know the best way to get over this disease is by having as many people as possible stay at home and social distance," said Dr. Adams, "and we don't expect that to continue forever."

As for those big gathering like sports or concerts, Adams says that may take a little longer. He says a lot will depend on how quickly testing can become available and better information on therapeutic - that can help people heal from coronavirus.

"I expect that we will limit large gatherings for the next few months at least until we feel confident that we can slow the spread, and we can respond to spread when it does occur."

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