Former FDA commissioner: Coronavirus a 'once-in-a-generation pathogen'

Former FDA commissioner: Coronavirus a 'once-in-a-generation pathogen'
© UPI Photo

Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Sunday that the coronavirus was a “once-in-a-lifetime pathogen,” the effects of which would be “historic.”

“There’s no question the steps we’re taking right now are changing the course of this epidemic,” Gottlieb said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “The best-case scenario is we look back a month from now and say wow, we overreacted… this is a once-in-a-generation pathogen. We have never seen anything like this before in modern times, this is going to be historic right now.”

Gottlieb also warned of the possibility of a “Wuhan-style outbreak” in New York.

“Remember, Wuhan is the size of New York City. At the peak of that epidemic they hospitalized about 20,000 people, 10,000 were in seriously critical condition,” he said.

“New York, the entire state, has about 50,000 hospital beds… so if we have a Wuhan-style outbreak in New York, that’s going to overwhelm the system, so they need to be building surge capacity right now in anticipation of that possibility…there’s ways to avert it but that’s the risk that we face right now,” he added.

ADVERTISEMENT

Asked by CBS’ Margaret Brennan if locking down entire cities would be necessary, Gottlieb said “I don’t think we can quarantine a U.S. city and lock it down and deny people their liberty in this country.”

“I think what we can do is slow economic activity to a point where people have no place to go. If you close the theaters and you close the restaurants and you close large gatherings, you tell people not to have dinner parties, you tell businesses to have nonessential workers telework, people stay home… I think that’s the solution,” he added.

Although Gottlieb praised New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) leadership through the outbreak, Gottlieb expressed dismay that the city’s public schools remain open, saying “you do start to worry that people’s ability to protect themselves is going to break along socioeconomic lines, where lower income Americans will not have the same opportunities that middle and high wage earners have.”