Mar 21, 2021 - Health

Former FDA chief: Fourth COVID wave not likely

The U.S. is unlikely to face a fourth wave of the coronavirus, but will likely see plateauing case numbers before they continue to decline, Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb told ABC's "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

Why it matters: It comes amid growing concerns about a possible surge in the U.S. Gottlieb noted that there are still many unanswered questions about new COVID-19 variants that could pose problems down the road.

What they're saying: Gottlieb said a plateau in case numbers could be fueled by the spread of new variants — like the B. 1.526 variant from New York, the South African variant, B.1.351, and the U.K. variant, B.1.1.7 — as well as the easing of safety restrictions.

  • "I don't think we're going to have a fourth wave, I think what we're seeing around the country is parts of the country that are plateauing, and we're seeing upticks in certain parts of the country."
  • "I think what you could see is a plateauing for a period of time before we continue on a downward decline, in large part because B.1.1.7 is becoming more prevalent, in large part because we're pulling back too quickly with respect to taking off our masks and lifting the mitigation."

But, but, but: Gottlieb said questions remain about the variants themselves.

  • "What we don't understand with 1.526 is whether or not people are being reinfected with it and whether or not people who might have been vaccinated are now getting infected with it."
  • "One of the concerns about this particular variant is that it has that mutation that's also in the South African variant, in the B.1.351 variant, that we know in certain cases is causing people who have already had coronavirus to get reinfected with it."

The big picture: Gottlieb said the U.S. must begin more carefully tracking variant cases of COVID-19.

  • "We need to step in much more aggressively and start sequencing cases, especially people who report that they either were previously vaccinated or already had COVID."
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