Gottlieb: Declines in cases, hospitalizations should signal a relaxation in COVID-19 restrictions

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on Sunday that recent declines in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are noteworthy and a possible signal for some restrictions to be relaxed.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” host John Dickerson asked Gottlieb how he would respond to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyStudy: Older Americans saw larger declines in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths after vaccine became available Overnight Health Care: Biden 'very confident' in Fauci amid conservative attacks | House Dems press Biden on global vaccinations | CDC director urges parents to vaccinate adolescents New York plans to loosen school mask rules as soon as Monday MORE’s recent assessment that COVID-19 rates were looking “hopeful.”

“I think we are seeing a hopeful trend across the country. Cases are clearly declining. The positivity rate is about 3.3 percent right now. Hospitalizations are falling as well, which is a good indication,” Gottlieb, who sits on the board of Pfizer, said. “Right now, the declines that we're seeing, we can take to the bank. I think we can feel more assured because they're being driven by vaccinations and greater levels of populationwide immunity, not just from vaccination but also from prior infection.”

Gottlieb noted that the overall vulnerability of the U.S. population had been reduced “substantially,” especially among older Americans. However, he said that rates may not fall especially low this summer, adding that there will likely be “sporadic” infections and outbreaks at summer camps.

Dickerson also asked Gottlieb whether some policies and practices should change in response to these dropping numbers.

“I think we need to lean more aggressively forward and look at ways to try to relax some of the provisions that don't really make as much sense anymore. And probably the ones that we should be looking at the hardest are things done outside,” Gottlieb said. 

“I think we should be thinking about lifting mask ordinances outside. I think we should be thinking about lifting limits on gatherings outside and trying to encourage people to go outside now that the weather is warming. Take more activities outside in the face of declining risk overall,” he added.

“Again, I think that these declines we're seeing are really locked in at this point. So I don't think we need to be as worried that as we take our foot off the break things are going to surge again,” he said.