WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — As protesters encouraged by President Trump demand to be “liberated” from stay-at-home orders, the U.S. surgeon general urges governors to take a phased approach when it comes to reopening state economies.
“This isn’t a light switch. It’s more like a sunrise,” said U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams.
Last week, the Trump administration released guidelines for states that said they should reopen when they have adequate testing, contact tracing, and healthcare capacity.
“To make sure when these blips occur, we can quickly deal with them and they don’t turn into large outbreaks,” Adams said.
Each state will follow a different timeline, but more Americans are growing restless and protesting stay-at-home orders, arguing the coronavirus crisis puts not just lives but also livelihoods at stake.
“They’ve got cabin fever,” President Trump said during Sunday’s White House coronavirus briefing. “They want to get back. They want their life back. Their life was taken away from them.”
President Trump has seemingly encouraged protesters by making comments such as, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!,” on Twitter. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer defended the measures she put in place to slow the spread of the virus.
“My stay-at-home order is one of the nation’s more conservative, but the fact of the matter is it’s working,” Whitmer said during an interview on CNN Sunday. “We’re seeing the curve start to flatten, and that means we’re saving lives.”
Once more of the country starts to reopen, the surgeon general worries about a new class system of sorts developing between those who may now be immune to the virus versus those who must still deal with the threat of infection.
“We don’t want to stigmatize anyone for having the virus or not having the virus,” Adams said.
Adams said it is still unknown whether antibodies will protect recovered patients for a few months, a few years or for the rest of their life.
“That is why we can’t rely solely on an antibody test or a singular test to say, ‘Look, you’re safe. You can go back to what you were doing before,’” he said.
Only a vaccine can provide that kind of confidence, but since one likely won’t be available until next year, Adams said the days of social distancing will continue long after states start reopening.
“One of the things we’re going to have to figure out is what society looks like moving forward,” he said.
As protests continue, Adams urges Americans to still follow the White House coronavirus task force guidelines, which include standing six feet apart, wearing masks and staying at home if possible.
“If there’s a way for you to express your concerns without going out in public, please think of that first and foremost,” he said. “It’s important that we all continue to take appropriate precautions.”