Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on Monday the COVID-19 delta wave, which is finally slowing in many regions after weeks of rising cases, could be the “last major surge” in the U.S.
“On the back end of this delta wave, I do think this is the last major surge of infection, barring something unexpected like a new variant coming along that pierces the immunity offered by vaccination or prior infection,” Gottlieb told CNN.
Still, the former FDA commissioner cautioned that he expects the delta variant will still strike northern areas of the U.S. harder in the coming weeks, following widespread outbreaks in the South and Midwest.
“I think by Thanksgiving, it's probably going to have run its course across the whole country,” he said. “But it's going to seep into the northern parts of the country, the Northeast a little bit later than certainly in the South but even in the Midwest.”
Cases have declined nationwide by 18 percent in two weeks, but the former commissioner noted that drops in the South’s case count are driving the decrease after delta “aggressively” spread in the region.
Gottlieb said officials are documenting rising cases in other areas of the country, particularly the Midwest and parts of the Pacific Northwest.
“So prevalence should decline on the back end of this delta wave, and hopefully we get back to more of a semblance of normalcy, especially when vaccines hopefully will be available for children as well,” he added.
Pfizer is expected to submit its data for vaccines in children under 12 in a matter of days, and Gottlieb said the FDA could decide on approval in four to six weeks.
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has estimated the delta strain to account for about 98 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. throughout September.
The highly transmissible strain hit the South particularly hard over the summer, with a rapid spread of infection and the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths occurring among the unvaccinated.