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U.S. likely “much further in this epidemic than we’re picking up” says former FDA official

Dr. Gottlieb, former United States Commissioner on Food and Drugs under former President Donald Trump, claims the country could see a turn in the coming weeks.
Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was a physician and former...
Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was a physician and former conservative pundit before joining the agency.(AP Photo/Kathy Young (custom credit) | AP)
Published: Jul. 25, 2021 at 4:11 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Sunday he thinks the U.S, is further into the COVID-19 epidemic than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention models show, CBS News reports. “Hopefully we’re going to turn a corner” in the next two to three weeks, he said.

“We’re not doing a lot of testing. More of the testing that we are doing is antigen tests that are being done at home and not getting reported,” Gottlieb said to CBS. “So, I think we’re much further into this epidemic than we’re picking up and hopefully further through this epidemic.”

The CDC’s latest model predicts that in the next three weeks, there may be between 90,000 and 800,000 new cases. Gottlieb says he believes this range is a sign the agency doesn’t have a good sense of where the outbreak is headed, according to CBS.

“I believe that there is more virus than we’re picking up right now,” Gottlieb said. “There’s probably a lot of people with mild to subclinical infection since more of the infection is happening in a younger population that’s less likely to become very symptomatic.”

Gottlieb said the U.S. is about three or four weeks behind the United Kingdom in the pandemic, and using that country as a model, the U.S. could be turning a corner soon, CBS News reports.

“If you look at the U.K., they do in the last seven days appear to be turning a corner. You’re starting to see a downward trajectory on the cases. Now, it’s unclear whether that’s going to be sustained,” Gottlieb said to CBS News.

However, according to Johns Hopkins University, the United Kingdom is seeing a major spike in new cases. The number of new cases almost doubled in the first half of July, according to the university’s data.

Dr. Gottlieb said the CDC is only tracking infections that cause hospitalization, but medical officials “need to understand whether or not vaccinated people are developing subclinical and mild infections and whether or not they can spread the virus, because that’s going to inform the kinds of decisions that they make,” CBS said.

Gottlieb also thinks the CDC needs to look further into if vaccinated people can spread the new Delta variant.

“It’s a question I get a lot from vaccinating individuals is whether or not they can spread the infection,” Gottlieb said. “Again, we know that they were far less likely to spread the infection with the other variants. We don’t know a lot about this Delta. This is a question that can be answered, and CDC should be looking at this.”

While the new variant is not more airborne, Gottlieb said, masks can still be helpful.

“So it’s not more airborne,” Gottlieb said. “It’s not more likely to be permeable through a mask. So a mask can still be helpful. I think, though, if you’re going to consider wearing a mask, the quality of the masks does matter. So if you can get your hands on a KN95 mask or an N95 mask, that’s going to afford you a lot more protection.”

Locally, East Tennessee is seeing an increase in cases and a lack of ICU beds. Knox County recently saw a large spike in active cases, doubling in a week, according to the state’s website. Tennessee’s ICU beds are also nearly at full capacity as well, state health officials say.

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