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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."

Go deeper

17 mins ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."

UN warns of "catastrophic" climate change failure without more emissions cuts

UN Secretary-General António Guterres at a news conference. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

A United Nations report released Friday warned that the planet will likely warm by more than 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century unless governments take extra steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Why it matters: The report, released just months ahead of November's UN Climate Summit, highlights the growing pressure on global leaders to crack down on emissions to avert the worst effects of climate change.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Pentagon approves request for 100 National Guard troops for "Justice for J6" rally

Security fencing has been reinstalled around the Capitol. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved a request from Capitol Police to provide 100 D.C. National Guard troops in case law enforcement requires additional support at Saturday's "Justice for J6" rally at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Security preparations have ramped up ahead of the pro-Trump demonstration, where hundreds of protesters sympathetic to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack are expected to gather.