Coronavirus: Former Surgeon General warns most US states 'still not at the point' to reopen safely

 'We’ve got to make sure that a few things are happening before we do that'

Louise Hall
Tuesday 28 April 2020 22:39
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Most states not ready to open safely, says top Trump official

The former Surgeon General of the US has said that most states are still not in a position to start reopening their economies during the coronavirus pandemic, despite plans in a number states to begin easing restrictions.

In an interview on ABC News, Dr Vivek Murthy, who served as the 19th Surgeon General, was asked whether he believed states were ready to start easing their restrictions.

“I think in most states in the country, we are still not at the point where we are able to open safely,” Dr Murthy replied.

“Let's just admit that everybody wants to open, we’re all struggling and hurting in various ways. We’ve got to open up quickly but we’ve got to make sure that a few things are happening before we do that.”

The doctor stipulated that a number of criteria need to be met before the majority of states could start to consider easing coronavirus restrictions.

He said it necessary that “the number of new cases is declining significantly and for a prolonged period of time and that we also have the testing, contact tracing and hospital surge capacity so that we can identify infections and treat them if they develop further."

When questioned whether the US was currently doing enough in terms of the number of tests needed to be carried out each daily to help manage the virus Dr Murthy said that testing was only meeting a “fraction” of the demand.

“Right now we are doing just a fraction of the tests that need to be doing each day. We need to be closer to a million tests a day”, he said.

“If we don’t have that then it’s essentially like flying blind, we are going to be opening up without the ability to effectively detect where infection may be surfacing. We can’t detect it, we can’t contain it, which means it will spread more quickly.”

Dr Murthy was dismissed from his role as Surgeon General in 2017 by the Trump administration.

The conversation comes as a number of states across the country plan to start relaxing stay-at-home orders and allowing non-essential businesses to re-open.

By April, 12 states had not issued statewide stay-at-home orders, and 12 states have not closed so-called “nonessential” businesses.

Earlier this month President Donald Trump outlined guidelines for governors to use when planning to reopen their states “one careful step at a time.”

“Americans want to be open ... A national shutdown is not a sustainable long-term solution ... It’s going to be up to the governors," Mr Trump said.

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