US surgeon general urges caution, not panic, on new virus

U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, right, exchanges business cards with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., left, and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, center, as he leaves the Connecticut State Public Health Laboratory, Monday, March 2, 2020, in Rocky Hill, Conn. Jessica Hill / Associated Press

ROCKY HILL, Conn. (AP) — Surgeon General Jerome Adams called for caution but “not panic” over the spread of the new coronavirus during a stop Monday in Connecticut, where state officials urged the federal government to increase spending on health agencies and preparedness.

Adams and state Public Health Commissioner Renee Coleman-Mitchell called on the public to take precautions such as washing hands, elbow “bumping” instead of hand shaking, and getting flu shots. Flu shots, they said, would decrease the number of people hospitalized because of flu and free up space, if needed, to treat patients sickened by the new virus.

“Caution, preparedness, but not panic,” Adams said. “That’s how we’re going to successfully navigate this coronavirus situation.”


Adams, who was in Connecticut for events unrelated to the virus, spoke while touring the state public health laboratory in Rocky Hill, which recently received federal approval to run diagnostic testing for coronavirus.

“The risk to individuals from the novel coronavirus right now is low. Due to the administration’s aggressive containment strategies, we have done a good job of limiting coronavirus entry into the United States,” Adams said.

Coleman-Mitchell said the state lab did its first two tests for coronavirus over the weekend and both were negative.

Adams and Coleman-Mitchell also cautioned the public against buying surgical masks, saying it could lead to a shortage that could affect medical staff and patients who need them.

There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus, in Connecticut. The number of cases in the U.S. has climbed to at least 91, including six deaths, all in Washington state. Worldwide, more than 89,000 people have been infected and more than 3,000 have died.

Adams noted the current flu season in the U.S. is severe and has killed an estimated 18,000 people.

“I would be shocked, I would be absolutely shocked, if we get anywhere near the hospitalizations or deaths from coronavirus that we’ve had for the flu in this country,” he said.


U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, toured the lab with Adams on Monday. He said there is bipartisan support for increasing federal government spending to fight and treat the virus.

Blumenthal said he and other members of Congress want to spend much more than the Trump administration’s proposed $2.5 billion in extra appropriations to combat the virus. He said that there is bipartisan support for at least $8.5 billion in additional spending that he hopes Congress will pass within the next 10 days.

“We are going to fight for the money that is necessary to be effective and stop this disease from becoming a pandemic,” Blumenthal said.

The measure would finance both federal and state response efforts, fund the federal government’s drive to develop and produce a vaccine, and offer Small Business Administration disaster loans to help businesses directly affected by the growing outbreak.

Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, took part in a conference call later Monday with other governors and Vice President Mike Pence, whom President Donald Trump has tapped to lead U.S. efforts to fight the virus.

The governors expressed their state’s needs for federal reimbursements for state public health expenses related to the virus, Lamont said. Pence, he said, appeared to support the congressional spending plan and talked about how the virus is beginning to diminish in China while spreading in other areas.


“We’re just trying to figure out what the half-life of this virus is going to be,” Lamont said. “But right now I feel like Connecticut is in good shape. We’re prepared, prepared for the worst, hoping for the best.”


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