Story at a glance
- Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says the country is likely to see regional outbreaks of the coronavirus as cases rise in the Midwest.
- The best mitigation tactic is physical distance and wearing face masks.
Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb estimated that in the upcoming weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, nationwide outbreaks will be defined by an uptick in cases followed by the implementation of public health measures to mitigate transmission.
“I think what we're likely to see is regional outbreaks with compensatory action that's going to get those outbreaks under control across the country,” he told reporters on CBS News.
Gottlieb cited regions like the Northeastern U.S. which, along with the Seattle area, was one of the nation’s first epicenters for coronavirus infections. Both regions entered strict public lockdowns, which helped reduce transmission of the virus.
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He also pointed out that the Sun Belt areas, like Arizona, Florida, Texas and Southern California, are finally beginning to see cases decline after weeks of sharp increases. This comes as Florida and California recently reported record-breaking daily fatalities as a result of COVID-19 infections.
Ultimately, Gottlieb attributed the eventual decline of new cases to public health choices.
“We're seeing declines in those states with some actions that they took, but more likely with the collective action of individuals starting to withdraw from activity a little bit and wear masks more and express more vigilance,” he explained. “I think we're likely to see this continue, where there is going to be these epidemics in different parts of the country and in compensatory action to get it under control.”
Despite this observation, the Midwest, which had been relatively untouched by the virus, is the latest region to see growth in new cases.
“It's going to be hard to keep the virus out,” Gottlieb warned. This difficulty stems from the decision to reopen the economy versus enforcing public health mandates of physical separation.
“Is that combination of masks with some targeted mitigation enough to keep the virus out? We certainly hope so,” Gottlieb said. “If it is, then we've sort of found a happy medium between strict lockdowns and just letting it spread unchecked that could keep this at bay.”
He again emphasized the need for personal accountability in public health practices.
“I think after parts of the country become affected by this, you do see some increased vigilance and hopefully that's going to persist,” he said. Gottlieb also pointed out that while a hallmark of U.S. democracy is the power of local governments and personal liberties, a pandemic needs a more top-down, national strategy. He said that American individualism “works against us in this kind of a setting.”
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