The US will “never have zero” new daily Covid cases, said Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday.
“We will always have some prevalence,” said the former FDA chief, predicting that infections will become endemic, which means they will remain present in the American population. Seasonal flu, for example, is an endemic respiratory disease.
Gottlieb’s comments come as concerns grow over the variant of Covid Delta, which was first discovered in India and now has devastating effects in the UK on public health strategies.
On Squawk Box, Gottlieb said that while the spread of the Delta variant in the US will continue to grow, the response to new cases there may not follow the blueprint used in other parts of the world. He gave Israel as an example. This country, recognized for the success of its vaccine roll-out, recently reintroduced its mandate for inner masks, less than two weeks after it was first lifted.
“Israel is a poor proxy for what you are doing here with regard to our situation because Israel really wants a situation where they want zero Covid,” said Gottlieb, who sits on the board of directors at Covid vaccine maker Pfizer. “We’re not going to try to reduce this to zero cases a day” in the US
“Israel is trying to reduce the number of cases to zero per day, so they are taking different measures than we are,” he added. “Hong Kong is trying to keep it out completely; that’s why they ban travel.”
Despite predicting the US will have “persistent infection,” Gottlieb said the nature of the cases will vary significantly in both scale and geography from earlier stages of the pandemic, which is defined as an epidemic that has gone global.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a situation like last winter where there are 200,000 cases a day. I think we’re talking about maybe tens of thousands of cases a day here in the United States.” how it’s starting to catch on across the country, “said Gottlieb, who headed the Food and Drug Administration in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019.
According to the Johns Hopkins University, the highest single day of infections in the United States was on January 2 at 300,462. The most Covid deaths in the US in one day were 4,475 on Jan. 12.
Unlike earlier this year, the most significant outbreaks are now likely to be “highly regionalized,” he added, and will depend heavily on the percentage of the local population vaccinated, much of the prevalence and other parts of the country that are more vulnerable. “
According to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data, the US is seeing an average of just under 12,000 new coronavirus cases per day over the past seven days. This number is stable compared to a week ago. The seven-day average of new daily Covid deaths reported in the US is 306 – that’s 9% more than a week ago.
Around 46% of the US population are fully vaccinated against Covid, while 54% have received at least one dose, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. Crucially, roughly 78% of Americans age 65 and over are fully vaccinated, and nearly 88% have received at least one dose.
Gottlieb said that even if the US sees a new spread of coronavirus, “it will have far less impact than a year ago as more of the people at risk who will now be more susceptible to this infection will be protected by vaccinations.”
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the board of directors of Pfizer, genetic testing startup Tempus, health technology company Aetion Inc., and biotechnology company Illumina. He is also co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean.