If you're not social distancing, 'you're slapping us all in the face': Tom Bossert

Former acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, former homeland security adviser Tom Bossert and ABC News chief medical correspondent Jen Ashton discuss COVID-19 on “This Week.”
10:22 | 03/22/20

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Transcript for If you're not social distancing, 'you're slapping us all in the face': Tom Bossert
count on boxes. Paper and Packaging. How life unfolds. Consider America being on a wartime foot this virus. I do. I view it in a sense I'm wartime president. That's what we're fighting. President trump striking a more serious tone at one of his near-daily briefings which have sometimes sown confusion and doubt over the government's response effort. Joining me now to discuss that and more, ABC news chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton. Former trump homeland security adviser Tom Bossert and Kevin mcaleenan. Secretary mcaleenan, I want to start with you. We have this massive flow of information, we were talking and you said it looks almost like a military commander, you need a military commander to run this massive operation on what's essentially a battlefield. Do we have enough people, you heard the FEMA director, what are you seeing? Right, well, I had the opportunity to work closely with Pete Gaynor at FEMA on responses. Now we have the operational muscle of FEMA backing the medical professionals at the HHS, but this information flows at a different scale than any crisis I have seen. We got all 50 states engaged. We're trying to bring in data from hospitals, medical professionals, we're trying to look at what's happening in 140 countries where this disease is in presently. And you heard me press him about warnings and about Intel, how does that work? There had to be warnings. Sure. One of our contributors just texted me a short time ago, and said, there were warnings, they were ignored, we should have been more prepared. Epidemic response for the department of homeland security, has the lead role. Just in my 20 years at dhs we dealt with things from ebola in 2016 very significantly to Zika, H1N1, sars, mers, these were periodic. What's different about this is the infectious combined with the lethality. This is a different pathogen. It's created challenges that are unique and different. If you had warnings about a pandemic, they would be unique and different it would seem? Right. And so why not prepare for something like that, given the fact that obviously it's enormous and it's global and it's a new virus, but is there not a way to be prepared for something? There's a lot of preparation. There's a lot of equipment in the stockpile. Again, the scale of this is very different. What I see in this crisis right now is that we have reached a very important point. Two key points in any crisis, you have an action point and a turning point. I believe we hit that first point, we have the clarity and shared strategy. Key elements of the nation mall machinery mobilized toward that end -- public health. You heard about the state and local governors are fully engaged. You got the coronavirus task force. You got the private sector. 20 vaccines according to the world health organization already in testing. You got antiviral testings on the therapeutic side might make a difference. We're all moving in complementary direction and lack of partisanship. When you look at the data you've seen, and you know people at home are so nervous about this, when do you think we'll know more about how long this might last? So, we're about halfway the 15 days to flatten the curve period, I know the coronavirus task force, all the public health professionals, Columbia university, everybody's working on analyzing the models and see what we'll be facing. I think a week from now we'll have a better picture. Four weeks we'll have much more clarity on how long this is going to last, the extent of the outbreak in the United States and what we're going to have to do in our daily lives to address it. Thank you for joining me. Thank you. Former acting dhs secretary Kevin mcaleenan. Let's bring in Dr. Jen Ashton and our own Tom Bossert now. You heard in the press conference yesterday that not everyone should be tested. Dr. Ashton, prioritizing everybody, are we in a new phase of this disease? I think we absolutely are in a new phase, Martha. If you go back just a few weeks ago, there was such a big push and focus on getting more tests out there and I think now it's almost looking like that was an unfortunate diversion because, yes, data does drive decisions it's important to know the penetrance of this virus in our society, but right now, the focus on testing everyone is drawing our attention and our valuable resources away from critical care, not just of patients with severe covid-19 but with the patients that are already and always in our healthcare system at baseline, the heart attacks, the strokes, the accidents. So I think we are going to switch very rapidly, and we heard Dr. Fauci mentioned it yesterday, to this message, if you have mild symptoms don't try to get a test because as you see the focus on ppes, you know, we have to understand that our surge capacity here on a healthcare, hospital level depends on staff, supplies, space and systems, they're all interconnected. Ppes don't work by themselves unless there are healthcare workers to use them. So I think we need to rapidly shift to the more critical patients so that we don't have a situation as we're seeing unfold in Europe. And Tom Bossert, you have been watching this for weeks and tracking the data, is where we are today with the number of cases, number of deaths, where you expected us to be? Better, worse, because many healthcare experts are showing we're tracking with Italy and that's obviously not good. So, Martha, one of the problems with this is to treat the United States as a monolithic thing, we're a really big country, so much bigger than Italy, what Dr. Jen said is right in terms of testing. We needed more case ascertainment. Was to target these clampdowns to places that needed to be because we didn't have that testing capacity and because it came on us quickly, we ended up shutting down the entire country economically and social distancing all at once. Where we are today is, it seemed to worked if people stick to this plan. I'm upset for those who don't stick to it. Because we're all paying a heavy cost economically. If you don't follow these rules, then you're slapping us all in the face because we don't get the public benefits of that cost. I would say there's a dichotomy to answer your question between the 47 states that seem to have a problem, but one that can continue to control, and the three states led by New York unfortunately, that seemed to have a problem that's going to grow now in a way, and I say this and I hope my wrong that, that's going to overwhelm the New York healthcare system in the coming days. And why not a national shutdown, slowdown? What we don't want to do is fatigue the communities that don't have the need to act in this fashion and/or leave those communities that are in a dire situation with the impression they're not in that situation, I'm not trying to be alarmist but a clear-eyed assessment. Administrator Gaynor said, quote, every single governor is looking for the same thing. That's a problem. We need to focus our resources into New York, California, Washington state, the places right now that are seeing significant potential explosive growth, I mean more than our hospital systems can bear. Martha, think about this, if you're worried about keeping ceding coming from Europe, think about within intrastate, if a state that hasn't yet seen the seething of this virus that you got time to act not that you dodged a bullet. And Dr. Jen, there's been new data this week showing a wider swath of the population is more susceptible, younger people, many more males with mortality rate, new symptoms, possibly stomach problems, do these revelations mean the data is catching up or we're simply learning more about the disease? I think it's a combination, Martha. We do have to remember that we're less than three months just into the medical and scientific understanding and familiarity with this novel coronavirus. So everything you said is really important. New information that we gleaned in the last couple of days, it's part of the reason why we need to track data and understand how this virus is behaving in the U.S. And what the patient characteristics and profiles look like. But I can tell you, Martha, to dovetail off what Tom just said, in New York City the hospitals are already under water. We have seen urgent pleas for anyone with a healthcare license -- doctors, nurses, physician assistants -- to identify yourself to a local hospital system, we have an evolving situation in obstretics, with mothers, fathers and kids being separated. There's confusion on a clinical level here. Without the information you just mentioned we can't integrate all of this. I think we're going to rapidly see a strong message that if you have mild symptoms, at any age, don't focus on getting tested right now because you're taking resources away from someone who literally may be in a more critical medical situation. Dr. Jen, I got to wrap you there. We so appreciate everything you said this morning. Tom Bossert and Dr. Jen Ashton,

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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