Surgeon General visits Billings, says vaccines can end pandemic

Posted at 12:33 PM, Dec 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-12 14:33:25-05

The U.S. Surgeon General made an unexpected stop in Billings on Friday, after weather would not allow a flight from Helena to Poplar.

Vice Admiral Jerome Adams said he expects vaccines to be given next week.

He talked with health workers from Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Healthcare and RiverStone Health.

"While the TV cameras are here to just give me an overview of what this looks like here in Billings to the nurses," Adams said. "What's the capacity look like now? What are your nurses feeling and experiencing?"

"Staffing has been incredibly challenging," said Laurie Smith, Billings Clinic chief nursing officer. "Our teams are tired, they're exhausted. And what they're witnessing every day comes with a price tag. It's been, not just physically and mentally challenging, but emotionally."

He put out his own message while meeting at Billings Clinic.

"The most important thing that I want people to understand and remember is that it's going to be a really hard next couple of weeks," Adams said. "And I just want to be straight with people about that our hospitals are at capacity. We're seeing record deaths. And we need to come together."

He talked about the importance of masks distancing washing hands, and about vaccines, which he called the ultimate tool to deal with COVID.

"We expected this vaccine and hoping this vaccine would be 60% effective," Adams said. "We would've been ecstatic if it was 70 percent effective. These vaccines are 95% effective. We can truly end this pandemic and get back to normal, if people get vaccinated."

Adams expects the country will see some re-openings.

"We will get to the point where we're starting to turn that light switch up in the next couple of weeks, slowly," Adams said. "And they will notice changes throughout. But we still have to keep mitigating until we get the light fully on."