On a weekend in which 10 states reported their highest one-day COVID case counts—from Colorado to West Virginia—and hospitalizations increased there and elsewhere, Alex Azar, the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, appeared opposite Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press to alert Americans about the surge—and how to stop it. Read on to hear his sage advice, and don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
Todd asked: “Who is leading the public health policy discussions on the federal government level,” calling it “confusing right now,” and Azar answered “the President” but called himself his emissary with a message we should all heed: “What matters right now is the message that we’re trying to get across, which is: Cases are increasing. Cases are increasing and we’re seeing this happen because we’re getting colder weather and we’re losing that natural social distancing that happens from being out of doors. And people are getting tired. The American people have given so much. We’re seeing mitigation fatigue right now.”
“Please,” said Azar, “my message to the American people, please practice those three W’s. Wash your hands, watch your distance, wear your face coverings when you can’t watch your distance. Stay out of settings where you can’t do those things. And really, please, Chuck, tell your viewers: be mindful of those indoor household gatherings. Just because you’re related to someone or friends with someone doesn’t mean you can’t transmit or get transmitted to.”
Todd pointed out that Azar was in Florida two days ago at a large indoor gathering in Fort Myers, with the President—and people had no masks. “Well, Chuck, for that policy event, masks were distributed to all of the individuals attending and the chairs were set up in a socially distanced way. And of course, I wore a face covering throughout. We encourage people to wear face coverings. And I wish everybody there would have worn face coverings and maintained social distance, Chuck. Our advice is the same no matter what the setting. Wash your hands, watch your distance, wear your face coverings when you can’t watch your distance.”
Todd asked why the President would throw a rally in Wisconsin, which has a surge in positive cases and hospitalizations. Azar said: “Well, Chuck, you know, we’re seeing an increase in cases in states, whether red or blue or open or closed. We’re seeing an explosion of cases in Europe. Europe, the most locked down part of the western democracies, and they’re seeing an explosion of cases. They’ve got more cases per million than we have in the United States. Some cases, some countries, on a population-adjusted basis, have two or three times what we have in the U.S. The ticket is in our own hands, Chuck. It’s what I talked about at the outset. It’s about those basic public health mitigation steps. We have it in our individual control. It’s our ticket to be reconnected to education, to worship, to work…. to health care, and also to our public and civic life….Wear a face covering when you can’t be socially distant, Chuck.”
Todd pressed, and asked why it was so difficult for the President to take his advice. “I think it’s a difficult message for all Western democracies,” answered Azar. “We’re seeing that in Europe. People are tired. The American people have given so much. People of Europe have given so much, Chuck. They’ve been locked down. They’ve been isolated and they’re tired. But the point is we’re so close. Hang in there with us. We are so close. We are weeks away from monoclonal antibodies for you, for safe and effective vaccines. We need to bridge to that day, so please just give us a bit more time of your individual, responsible behavior of washing your hands, watch your distance, wear your face coverings when you can’t watch your distance, Chuck.”
“No,” he said, “that’s not our policy. It’s a desire, through vaccination, to get to herd immunity, but it may be an outcome of all of those steps, but the desire is reduce cases, reduce cases, reduce hospitalizations, reduce fatalities.”
“The steps to, the steps to mitigate right now are simple,” he said. “Please wash your hands, watch your distance, wear your face coverings when you can’t watch your distance, stay out of settings where you can’t do those things, and please be mindful of indoor gatherings right now as it gets cold. And we just, just keep your guard up. Hang in there with us, because the days are, the days are bright ahead.” So practice those fundamentals, to protect your life and the lives of others, and don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.