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Ex-FDA commissioner: There could be ‘hundreds or low thousands’ of coronavirus cases

Greg Nash

Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Sunday that there could be “hundreds or low thousands” of coronavirus cases in the U.S.

The number of confirmed case “is going to increase” as testing increases, Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“Right now, there’s probably hundreds or low thousands of cases … that aren’t reported yet,” he said.

“It’s a big country, 330 million people, so anyone’s individual risk is still very low but we need to get those cases diagnosed and identified so we can start getting people quarantined and into treatment and prevent more spread. We need to start mitigating the implications of this spread,” he added.

Gottlieb added that the U.S. would likely have the capacity to screen 10,000 people daily by the end of the week, with the capacity for another 10,000 by the end of next week.

“That was really a critical step, bringing on those academic labs and leveraging their capacity; these are the major medical centers,” he said. “What we need to do now is make a real concerted effort to get a therapeutic. We know when it started but we don’t know when this is going to end.”

Gottlieb said that travel restrictions imposed by the Trump administration likely bought the U.S. some time, but added that “one of the mistakes, one of the challenges was getting the diagnostic testing in place.”

Instead of solely relying on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gottlieb said “simultaneously to that we should have been reaching out and trying to get the laboratory-developed tests into the game, and the manufacturers who have diagnostic capabilities.”

Gottlieb is currently a board member of Illumina, which has been involved in coronavirus-related work.

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