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Dr. Gottlieb warns US is a week away from ‘rapid acceleration’ of COVID-19

Published Oct 20th, 2020 11:13PM EDT
Coronavirus Wave
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  • Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb warned in interviews that the biggest coronavirus wave is yet to come, and the US is looking at a “rapid acceleration” of cases as soon as next week.
  • Gottlieb said the US will face the “most difficult phase of this epidemic” without vaccines, and reminded us that safety measures, including face masks and social distancing, can still reduce the spread.
  • Gottlieb also explained that the “biggest risks” for people are the places where they feel more comfortable and let their guards down, such as indoor gatherings.

The nightmare coronavirus scenario that health experts have been warning about over the summer is unfolding. The US is witnessing a massive explosion of cases, which could lead to the third peak of its COVID-19 epidemic. The new surge in cases coincides with the colder season’s arrival, which pushes more people indoors and leads to transmission. The virus survives even longer in colder weather, according to studies.

Health experts are also worried about the flu epidemic converging with the COVID-19, causing complications for patients and health systems. However, the flu season hasn’t started, and it might not be as pronounced if people respect health measures. Hand washing, social distancing, and mask-wearing can reduce the risk of flu transmission as well. But COVID-19 is spreading faster from day to day, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in recent interviews that the “biggest wave” is yet to come, warning that America is about “a week away from a rapid acceleration” of cases.

“We’re going to have to endure this wave of spread right now,” the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Sunday on Face the Nation. “And it’s probably likely to be the biggest wave that we endure without the benefit of a vaccinated population.”

Gottlieb explained that there’s really no backstop against the spread that we’re seeing” and that the “most difficult phase of this epidemic” is coming.

The expert also said that without any health measures in place, “if people weren’t wearing masks generally and some states weren’t adhering to some mitigation tactics, and we weren’t testing and tracing, then we’d have much worse spread.”

As of Tuesday morning, more than 8.46 million Americans tested positive, and over 225,000 lost their lives to COVID-19 complications.

Gottlieb also said that the COVID-19 spread occurs mainly in “it’s occurring in congregate settings where people feel more comfortable, a local Elks Club, a large family gathering.” Those are the “biggest risk” places for people, he said, addressing the upcoming presidential election. Precautions are being taken at polling places, the public health expert added.

In a separate interview with CNBC on Monday, the former FDA official said the US is about “a week away from seeing a rapid acceleration in cases.”

The number of daily COVID-19 cases has been increasing since early September when it dropped below 30,000 for the first time since June. The number of cases neared 70,000 on Friday.

“The summer was a backstop, of sorts, to the spring surge, and we have no therapeutic backstop,” Gottlieb said. “The fall and winter season is when this coronavirus is going to want to spread.”

“We can look to happier days, but these are going to be some tough months ahead,” he added.

The doctor said that he’s optimistic about vaccine trials, but the patients can look forward to COVID-19 immunity for early 2021, even if they get the first shots in late 2020. Gottlieb also sits on Pfizer’s board, one of the pharmaceutical companies currently testing vaccines in Phase 3 trials. Pfizer expects to seek emergency use authorization in late November if the drug is safe and effective.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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