Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday that the current rise in Covid infections caused by the more contagious delta variant may be the “last wave” of the virus in the United States.
“I do not think Covid is going to be epidemic all autumn and winter. I think this is the last wave, the last act, provided we do not have a variant that pervades the immunity offered by the past. infection or vaccination, “the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner told the Squawk Box. “This is likely to be the wave of infection that ends up affecting the people who refuse to be vaccinated.”
Gottlieb said Americans have a few months left in which they will have to take pandemic-related precautions, especially in the northern U.S. states, when cases begin to peak in the south until the wave of infection begins to subside again.
“I think it’s going to be a difficult period right now,” he said. However, Gottlieb said the contagious nature of the delta variant and increased vaccination rates could change the course of future infections.
“We are going to reach some population-wide exposure to this virus, either through vaccination or through previous infection that stops circulating at this level, at this rate,” said Gottlieb, who headed the FDA from 2017 to 2019 under Donald Trump’s administration. .
The seven-day average for new daily coronavirus cases in the United States is 108,624, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s 36% higher than a week ago. The highly transmissible delta variant, first identified in India, is estimated to account for 83% of all sequenced Covid cases in the country, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As the increase in infections coincided with the school’s reopening plans in the fall, Gottlieb warned that schools may have to start the year with more powerful mitigation measures in place such as mask use, testing, physical distancing and collection through pods.
“The aim must be to keep schools open and keep them open, and we can not expect to change all behavior in terms of what we do in terms of mitigation in schools and get the same result, especially with this new delta variant, which is more contagious and will inevitably be difficult to control in schools, “said Gottlieb, who sits on the board of Covid vaccine maker Pfizer.
Large numbers of vaccinated people can still gather in one place if there is a “skimming of a bubble” around it, he said. Vaccinated people who become infected are likely to infect the virus from unvaccinated people and then spread it to close contacts after being contagious for a short period of time, the former FDA chief said.
Gottlieb said that wearing a higher quality mask, like the KN95 mask, is more important now that the virus is known to spread through aerosols and not drops. A high-quality cloth mask provides only 20% protection against transmission, and most people do not wear them well, he said.
“We’re taking a kind of alpha mindset into a delta world and it’s not going to work,” Gottlieb said, referring to the alpha coronavirus variant first discovered in the UK last year. “We’re going to see that this delta variant is harder to control,” he said.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of directors of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus, healthcare tech company Aetion and biotechnology company Illumina. He also serves as co-chairman of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and the Royal Caribbean’s “Healthy Sail Panel”.