Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has predicted that declining coronavirus infection rates seen in the United States are “likely to continue,” but that achieving herd immunity by April might be too aggressive.
“This has taken a tragic toll on the United States, but we should be optimistic, in my view,” Gottlieb said in a weekend interview with CBS’s Face the Nation.
“I think we’re going to continue to see infection rates decline into the spring and the summer. Right now, they’re falling quite dramatically. I think these trends are likely to continue.”
Then on CNBC Monday, Gottlieb, a physician who worked at the FDA under former President Donald Trump and former President George W. Bush, touched on some of the projections seen in a recent op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal.
According to the author Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, new coronavirus cases in the United States have plummeted 77 percent within the past month and a half. He suggested that there is much higher broader immunity than what has been recognized in the medical community for much of the past year.
“There is reason to think the country is racing toward an extremely low level of infection,” Makary wrote.
“As more people have been infected, most of whom have mild or no symptoms, there are fewer Americans left to be infected,” Makary noted. “At the current trajectory, I expect COVID will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life.”
Gottlieb admitted that he does not “necessarily agree” with some of the figures Makary tapped into but added: “I think the sentiment is right.”
He believed that about one hundred twenty million people, or about 36 percent of the U.S. population, have already contracted the virus at some point during the yearlong pandemic. After factoring in the most recent vaccination data, Gottlieb estimated that roughly 40 percent of Americans currently have some level of antibodies.
“When you’re getting to 40 percent or 50 percent of the population with some form of protective immunity, you don’t have herd immunity but you have enough immunity in the population that this (virus) just doesn’t transfer as readily,” he said.
“I do think that as we get into the warm weather, as we vaccinate more of the population and in view of the fact that at least one-third of Americans have had this, I do think that infection levels are going to come down dramatically over the course of the spring and summer.”
White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci had previously noted that 75 percent to 85 percent of the overall population would need to develop some sort of immunity to create an “umbrella” of protection.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on Sunday projected that the United States will be “approaching a degree of normality” by the end of this year, but that pandemic-weary Americans may still be wearing face masks and coverings well into 2022.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.