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Surgeon general says coming week will ‘be our Pearl Harbor moment’

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Sunday said the coming week could be a national catastrophe comparable to Pearl Harbor or 9/11, echoing President Trump’s dire prognostication as the coronavirus exacts a deadly toll on America.

‘‘This is going to be the hardest and saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly,’’ Adams said in an appearance on Fox News. ‘‘This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized. It’s going to be happening all over the country.”

He added that the next 30 days would be critical for slowing the coronavirus’s spread, noting that some early hot spots are actually starting to contain the virus.

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Public health specialists, meanwhile, say more Americans are almost certainly dying of COVID-19 but being left out of the official count of more than 9,000 deaths.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said Sunday that the coming week is going to be a difficult one for Americans, although the rate of infections will probably go down as the month goes on.

‘‘This is going to be a bad week,’’ Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview on CBS News’ ‘‘Face the Nation.’’ ‘‘Unfortunately, if you look at the projection of the curves, of the kinetics of the curves, we’re going to continue to see an escalation.’’

He declined to say that the nation has the pandemic under control. But he said, ‘‘We should hope that within a week, maybe a little bit more, we’ll start to see a flattening out of the curve and coming down.’’

Those were some of the most grim assessments yet for the immediate future. Hours later, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence tried to strike more optimistic tones, suggesting that hard weeks ahead could mean the nation is beginning to turn a corner.

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“We’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel,” Trump said at an evening White House briefing. Pence added, “We are beginning to see glimmers of progress.”

The president insisted that both assessments from his administration — they came within 12 hours of each other — didn’t represent an about-face or were even “that different.’’

“I think we all know that we have to reach a certain point — and that point is going to be a horrific point in terms of death — but it’s also a point at which things are going to start changing,” Trump said. “We’re getting very close to that level right now.”

The president added that he thought the next two weeks “are going to be very difficult. At the same time, we understand what they represent and what that time represents and, hopefully, we can get this over with.”

The number of people infected in the United States has exceeded 337,000, with the death toll climbing past 9,600.

Overseas, in a rare broadcast Queen Elizabeth II called on the British people to show their self-discipline and quiet resolve during the pandemic. Her address was followed almost immediately by news that Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, had been admitted to the hospital.

Pope Francis marked Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in a service surrounded by only a few aides and a handful of clergy, after the annual public ceremony in St. Peter’s Square was scrapped.

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The declining number of cases in Italy, Spain, and Australia also have those countries cautiously optimistic that they are flattening the curve.

But Singapore and Japan, where earlier measures to contain the virus had initially appeared successful, reported record numbers of new cases.

Roughly 90 percent of the United States has been implementing stay-at-home orders, Adams said, despite the absence of a federal order. Among the nine states without any formal stay-at-home orders in place are several in the Midwest, including Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Iowa, which account for a large portion of America’s agriculture.

Still, Adams urged governors in those states to look for ways to keep residents at home without disrupting the food supply. ‘‘What I would say to those governors is, if you can’t give us a month, give us what you can. Give us a week,’’ Adams said. ‘‘Give us whatever you can to stay at home during this particularly tough time when we’re going to be hitting our peak over the next seven to 10 days. ‘‘

Meanwhile, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb predicted that the US economy is ‘‘going to be an 80 percent economy’’ until efforts at creating a vaccine are successful.

‘‘There are things that are not coming back. People are not going to crowd into conferences. They’re not going to crowd into arenas … and we need to accept that,’’ Gottlieb said on ‘‘Face the Nation.’’ ‘‘Now, what changes that equation is technology, but we need a deliberate approach to getting that technology quickly.’’

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Two governors said Sunday that they would like to see an alternative to the current state-by-state competition for ventilators and personal protective equipment, noting that the fight against the coronavirus is far from over.

Trump and other federal officials have said governors should take the lead on ensuring needed medical supplies are available in their states and the federal government should be a ‘‘backstop’’ when shortfalls become apparent.

But in a Sunday interview on NBC News’s ‘‘Meet the Press,’’ Arkansas Goveror Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, and Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said the current approach to the procurement of medical supplies could be improved.

‘‘It literally is a global jungle that we’re competing in now,’’ Hutchinson said. ‘‘I’d like to see a better way, but that’s the reality in which we are.’’

Inslee said it is ‘‘ludicrous that we do not have a national effort’’ to manage the procurement of medical equipment. Commenting on Adams’s statements comparing the virus to the Pearl Harbor attack, Inslee said: ‘‘Can you imagine if Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, ‘I’ll be right behind you, Connecticut. Good luck building those battleships.’’’

In New York, the epicenter of the US outbreak, a decline in new coronavirus-related deaths could be a sign that the state is nearing the apex, or just a ‘‘blip,’’ Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

‘‘We won’t know for the next few days, does it go up, does it go down,’’ Cuomo, a Democrat, said at a news conference.

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New York experienced 36 fewer deaths in the past 24 hours than in the 24-hour period before. As of Sunday, state officials had tallied more than 4,100 deaths.

The difficulty in determining exactly where New York stands on the curve is due to differing opinions on the models that project the course of the outbreak, Cuomo said. Some models identify a single point as the apex, while others identify the apex as a plateau at which the highest numbers remain consistent before they finally drop.

In other countries hit hard by the coronavirus, similar patterns emerged in which small declines were short-lived.


Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.