US likely undercounting new COVID-19 cases fueled by delta variant, Gottlieb says

Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on Sunday that the U.S. is likely undercounting the number of COVID-19 cases because some infected younger and healthier people are experiencing mild symptoms and may not think to get tested.

“I think at this point we're probably undercounting how many infections there are in the states right now because to the extent that a lot of the infections are occurring in younger and healthier people who might be getting mild illness, they're ... probably not presenting to get tested,” Gottlieb told host John Dickerson on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” 

“And to extent that there are some breakthrough cases, either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases in those who've been vaccinated, they're not presenting to get tested because if you've been vaccinated don't think that you have the coronavirus even if you develop a mild illness, and we're not doing a lot of routine screening right now unless you work for the New York Yankees, you're not getting tested on a regular basis,” he added.

Gottlieb’s comments come as the U.S. is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

Vaccination rates are also flat, as some members of the vaccine-hesitant community remain opposed to getting inoculated. Unvaccinated individuals make up the majority of the recent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

Gottlieb said on Sunday he thinks the delta wave “could be far more advanced than what we’re detecting right now.”

“At the peak of the epidemic in the wintertime we were probably turning over 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 infections. In the summer wave of last summer we were probably picking up more like 1 in 10 infections. We might be picking up something on the order of 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 infections right now because more of those infections are occurring in people who either won't present for testing or they're mild infections and they're self-limiting,” Gottlieb said.

“So the people who tend to be getting tested right now are people who are getting very sick or people who are developing telltale symptoms of COVID like loss of taste or smell, and that's only about 15 or 20 percent of people who have become infected,” he added.

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care — Presented by Indivior — CDC panel approves boosters for some, but not based on jobs Fauci: 'Worst time' for a government shutdown is in middle of pandemic The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in MORE, President BidenJoe BidenFighter jet escorts aircraft that entered restricted airspace during UN gathering Julian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy FBI investigating alleged assault on Fort Bliss soldier at Afghan refugee camp MORE’s chief medical adviser, made a similar statement in May, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he thinks there is “no doubt” that the U.S. has been undercounting COVID-19 cases.