The development came as the United States emerged as the global epicenter of the outbreak, reporting more confirmed cases of Covid-19 than anywhere else in the world, while state and local authorities continued to impose various stringent directives limiting people’s movements.
Adams on Wednesday declined to state definitively whether it is likely that the administration would again extend its nationwide guidelines into May, emphasizing that communities across the country are all “at a different place on their curve” of coronavirus infections.
“Some places aren’t going to hit their peak until after 30 days, and they’re going to need to continue social distancing. Other places that leaned in early may be able to relax some of their recommendations earlier,” he said.
“We’re going to start to look at how we can ease people back in,” Adams added, noting that a proposal under consideration by the White House coronavirus task force that Americans wear masks in public is “one of the things we’re looking at” to support the transition.
Regardless of the next iteration of the federal government’s recommendations, Adams repeatedly refused to answer whether the 17 states that have yet to impose stay-at-home orders should do so.
“We live in a nation that has a system of federalism, and the governors get to make the decisions,” he said. “But we’re going to give them the best possible guidelines we can, and that’s to stay at home and to social distance.”
Despite the surgeon general’s reluctance to weigh in on state-level affairs, several governors in recent weeks have called for greater federal intervention to help thwart the disease’s rapid rate of transmission.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, which is quickly becoming a Covid-19 hot spot, said at a news conference on Tuesday that he would consider requiring residents to remain in their homes if the administration formally endorsed such a directive.
“The task force has not recommended that to me. If they do, you know, obviously that would be something that would carry a lot of weight with me,” he said.
Pressed on Wednesday what his advice to DeSantis would be, Adams countered: “My advice to America would be that these guidelines are a national stay-at-home order. They’re guidelines that say that, look, the more we social distance, the more we stay at home, the less spread of disease there will be.”
But governors also “have tough choices to make,” Adams added. “They have to decide whether or not they feel like their citizens will listen to them without a stay-at-home order. But again, the most important thing is to stay at home, stay 6 feet away from each other. That’s how you slow the spread,” he said.
Later Wednesday afternoon, DeSantis issued a statewide order for all Floridians to stay at home, urging them to avoid unnecessary gatherings and travel.