Gottlieb says virus trajectory in U.S. “continues to look good” despite variants


Washington — Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under former President Donald Trump, said Sunday the path of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. looks promising as the number of new cases continues to decline and more Americans receive their vaccinations. 

In an interview with “Face the Nation,” Gottlieb predicted there will be pockets of outbreaks and areas of the country, such as New York, as new coronavirus variants become more prevalent, while the rest of the U.S. sees improvements. 

“I think overall, the trajectory for the nation continues to look good,” he told “Face the Nation.”

While the U.S. passed the grim milestone of more than 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus in late February, there have been promising trends over the past few weeks as the nation experiences a decline in new daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Additionally, with three coronavirus vaccines now being distributed after receiving federal authorization for emergency use, more than 105.7 million doses have been administered and nearly 37 million Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

President Biden has already surpassed his goal of at least 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office — doing so in roughly half that time — and he directed states to make all adults eligible for their shots by May 1. The president predicted that by July 4, Americans will be able to gather in small groups with friends and family.

Gottlieb said he believes Mr. Biden’s timeline for a return to some semblance of normalcy is realistic and that heading into April, the nationwide landscape “is going to look markedly better.”

“I think most of the country is going to look much better well before that,” he said. “I think you’re seeing cases decline all around the nation, even in parts of the country where 1.1.7, that UK variant, is becoming very prevalent. You’re still seeing continued declines, albeit more slowly. I think the combination of a lot of prior infection and the fact that we’re vaccinating aggressively now is enough to keep up with that and hopefully get ahead of it.”

One area of the country exhibiting concerning trends, though, is New York, where a new variant detected there is becoming more prevalent, Gottlieb said. While a new strain from the United Kingdom, B.1.1.7, makes up a significant portion of infections in Florida and Texas, he said the New York variant, B.1.526, has a mutation that could make it impervious to the coronavirus vaccines. 

“It’s still early, but there’s a lot of reasons to be concerned about the trends in New York City,” he said.

Still, Gottlieb said the next two weeks will shed more light on where the trends are heading in the city.

“I would be cautious in New York because if 1.526 is partially explaining what’s going on in New York City, that could be really concerning,” he said. “There’s ways to explain what’s happening in New York that aren’t as concerning that mean, you know, this is just sort of a temporary blip and will continue on with declines, and then there’s ways to explain it that would cause a lot of concerns, including that 1.526 mutation.”

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