Jun 28, 2020 - Health

Gottlieb: Aggressive action in virus hot spots won't have impact for weeks

Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that surging coronavirus cases across the Sun Belt are a result of "community spread that's been underway for some time" and that even if states take aggressive action to curb the spread now — which they're not — cases will continue to grow for weeks.

Why it matters: Skyrocketing cases in Florida and Texas have caused state leadership to hit pause on parts of their reopening plans. But Gottlieb argued that the piecemeal actions these new hotspots are taking, like closing bars, are far weaker than stay-at-home orders and will only have a "marginal" impact that may not manifest for weeks.

  • "These are major epidemics that are underway in the South and the Southeast right now," Gottlieb said.
  • "Look at New York. New York implemented the stay-at-home order on March 20, it was a Friday. It went into effect on Sunday. They peaked in terms of the number of daily cases that they were reporting on April 7," he added.
  • "So almost three weeks after they implemented the stay-at-home order, the cases continued to build and then they started to slowly decline."

The big picture: Over half the country — 26 states — have seen their coronavirus caseloads increase over the past week. The Trump administration has blamed the surges partially on increased testing, but public health experts say that increasing test doesn't fully explain the massive spike in infections

  • Gottlieb argued that states like Florida and Texas should have taken a two-week pause between phases of their reopening in order to assess the impacts of reopening, pointing to the success of Maryland, New Jersey and Michigan as an example.
  • His comments echo those of former CDC director Tom Frieden, who equated states reopening while cases were still growing to "leaning into a left hook."

What they're saying: "It's going to be hard to extinguish. We're going to have many weeks ahead of us of continued growth in these cases, at least two or three weeks — even if we take aggressive actions right now, which across the board we're not doing," Gottlieb said.

  • "You look at states like Florida, which might be in the worst shape right now, it looks like they may be tipping over into exponential growth, and so they're going to see perhaps rapid acceleration in number of cases," Gottlieb said.

Between the lines: While new coronavirus cases are largely being reported in younger populations, Gottlieb says that this trend is "not likely to stay that way."

  • "This spread is likely to seep into more vulnerable communities and we're likely to see total daily deaths start to go back up again."

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