Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Friday that most Americans should be comfortable gathering together safely on Independence Day weekend, citing high Covid vaccination rates and low virus infection rates in many parts of the country.
However, the former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said there are certain places where people should be more careful.
“There is a very low prevalence across the country. You have to depend on where you are, ”said Gottlieb in“ Squawk Box ”. He noted that new daily cases in his home state of Connecticut are small, “so it’s a pretty safe environment to get together right now.”
“In some parts of the country where prevalence is increasing – Missouri, parts of Nevada, Arkansas, Oklahoma – I think people should be more careful,” added Gottlieb, who sits on the board of directors at Covid vaccine company Pfizer.
Gottlieb’s comments come before the July 4th weekend as U.S. health officials closely monitor the Covid Delta variant, which is believed to be significantly more transmissible than dominant strains earlier in the pandemic.
Coronavirus cases in the country are dramatically lower than their peak in January when the country recorded over 300,000 new infections in a single day, but has been trending up in recent days, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.
The US recorded an average of about 12,700 new Covid cases per day in the past week, the analysis showed. That’s 9% more than a week ago.
“We don’t want to worry people, but we’re following these numbers very, very carefully,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky NBC News after a White House briefing Thursday.
The number of deaths continues to decline. The seven-day average of new Covid deaths is 249, according to CNBC analysis, a 19% decrease from a week earlier.
“There are kind of isolated parts of the country where the number of infections is increasing. The rest of the country looks very good,” said Gottlieb. “I think what you are seeing is a decoupling between places with high vaccination rates and places with low vaccination rates. You also see, frankly, a decoupling between the cases and extreme death and the disease that caused this virus.”
In countries with high vaccination rates, but also increasing cases due to the Delta variant, such as Great Britain and Israel, “hospitals and deaths are no longer increasing” as they did earlier in the global health crisis, said Gottlieb.
“For a while, we thought it was just the delayed effect where hospital admissions weren’t seen until three or four weeks after the number of cases rose, just like deaths,” said Gottlieb, who headed the FDA from 2017 to 2017 2019 in the Trump administration.
“But at this point we have enough trend to suggest that now you are only going to see decoupling and not see the extreme results of the virus in parts of the world where vaccination rates are high – and that includes the United States a.”
Because of this, Gottlieb said, it’s important to make sure more Americans get a coronavirus vaccine, which will reduce both the spread of the virus and the risk of getting seriously ill or dying from the disease.
Nearly 156 million Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. Just over 181 million people have received at least one dose; Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two vaccinations while Johnson & Johnson’s are a single dose.
However, there are geographical gaps in vaccination coverage. CDC’s Walensky said Thursday that fewer than 30% of residents are vaccinated in about 1,000 U.S. counties, most of which are in the Southeast and Midwest.
Overall, 47% of the US population is fully vaccinated.
“Preliminary data for the past six months suggests that 99.5% of deaths from Covid-19 in the states have occurred in unvaccinated people … the suffering and loss we see now are almost entirely preventable,” Walensky said .
Gottlieb said despite being fully vaccinated, he is still looking for ways to be cautious as the pandemic is not completely lagging behind the country.
“For example, if I am going to a restaurant and there is an opportunity to sit outside, I eat outside. I think where you can be some kind of nervous Bayesian and lower your statistical probability of coming into contact with the virus, why not? ”Said Gottlieb. “But I wouldn’t hold back from meeting friends and family on this holiday because the virus is spreading in very small numbers in certain parts of the country.”