The US is in a worse place today than it was on Memorial Day because of the mixed messages the public has been receiving about the measures needed to control the spread of the coronavirus, former acting director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Richard Besser said Monday.
“When you look at where we were Memorial Day [with] so many states moving in the right direction, with the numbers of cases going down, part of the country was really trying to use public health guidance as the road map to opening up the economy. And then, in other parts of the country, the message being ‘Get back to work, go out, enjoy your social life, there's nothing to worry about with this Covid pandemic,’” Besser told CNN’s Jim Acosta on The Situation Room.
“And when you see that clash of messages between some political leaders and every public health leader taking this so incredibly seriously, when you see that clash of messages, this is the outcome.”
Coronavirus infection cases are rising in 31 states and reopening measures are being paused or rolled back in 17 states.
“This has not been taken as seriously as it should be by all of the residents,” Besser said.
It’s not too late to change the trajectory, Besser said. “It’s not inevitable that this is going to continue on the trajectory it's on. But it is inevitable if we don't make significant changes,” he said.
Such changes should include slowing down reopening efforts, wearing masks, keeping six feet apart and good hand hygiene. “When I wear a mask, it's helping to protect you; when you wear a mask it's because you care about me. If we can get that spirit going there, we can see the same decline in the United States that Europe is seeing, that so many Asian countries are seeing,” he said.
“It's a small thing to do to try and protect the lives of those people who are really at risk: the elderly, those with medical conditions, those who must go back to work,” said Besser. “It's a small thing to do and it's the American way. The more we can try and take the politics out of this and make it as a national effort and national unity, the better we're going to be and the more we'll get this under control.”