Dr. Scott Gottlieb expressed his concern over COVID death totals in US since infection rates get worse during colder months.
The US could expect “staggering” numbers of COVID-19 deaths in the coming months. The Covid Tracking Project, an independent volunteer organization launched by journalists at The Atlantic, revealed that the coronavirus outbreaks in the US killed 916 people on Friday. Meanwhile, new coronavirus infections reached 71,600 on Thursday.
Gottlieb, who previously worked as the US Food and Drug Administration commissioner, told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” about the improvement shown by doctors in terms of treating coronavirus patients during the pandemic, diminishing the mortality rate. He noted it might have been decreased by 50%.
The improvement in patient care is attributed to drugs, such as Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir, and the use of steroids like dexamethasone, according to Gottlieb. President Donald Trump took both when he contracted the virus.
However, Gottlieb stressed that the challenge the US faces now is the massive presence of the virus across the country. “Mortality is going to be down, but we’re going to be infecting so many people that the daily death statistics are going to be staggering,” said Gottlieb, who headed the FDA from May 2017 to April 2019.
There could be “well above 1,000” new deaths per day reported in the weeks ahead,” he said. “And we might retest some of the totals that we saw in the spring, when we were reporting 2,000 deaths a day related to this virus, just because of the sheer number of people we’re likely to infect heading into the winter right now,” he added.
Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed that the US has almost 8.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and at least 223,752 deaths.
“I think we’re going to bear a lot more infection … and the health-care system is going to have to bear the brunt of this burden, because I don’t think you have the popular will for stay-at-home orders or broad mitigation,” he said.
“If everyone would just wear masks, that would cut down on the spread,” he added.
Jay Butler, the deputy director for infectious diseases of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the US coronavirus outbreaks are forming a “distressing trend.”
“Unfortunately, we are seeing a distressing trend here in the United States,” he told reporters on a call. He said the surge is likely due to the arrival of cooler temperatures, adding, “Smaller, more intimate gatherings of family, friends, and neighbors may be driving transmission as well, especially as they move indoors.”
“I recognize that we are all getting tired of the impact Covid-19 has had on our lives,” he said. “We’re tired of wearing masks, but it continues to be as important as it has ever been and I would say even more important than ever as we move into the fall season.”
The US now records 60,000 new infections daily, increasing nearly 17% compared with a week ago, based on a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The numbers come from a weekly average to stabilize fluctuations in daily reporting. Only Hawaii and Virginia showed declines of more than 5% as of Tuesday.
The US is deemed to have the worst outbreak in the world, with over 8.2 million cases and at least 221,122 deaths, the Hopkins data shows.