The U.S. is unlikely to face a “true” fourth wave of COVID-19 outbreaks, but the country should wait a few weeks longer before easing mitigation efforts, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Sunday.
Speaking to CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Gottlieb acknowledged that young people were driving new coronavirus outbreaks in many states, but that vaccination efforts should prevent another devastating surge of the virus.
COVID-19 cases are rising in 27 states and the District of Columbia, with more outbreaks seen as schools reopen. But more than 100 million Americans — and about 40% of all adults — have already received at least one vaccine dose, and that effort is speeding up, with a record of more than 4 million doses administered Saturday.
“The infection is changing its contours in terms of who’s being stricken by it right now,” Gottlieb said, according to a CBS News transcript.
“You have somewhere around 200 million Americans that have some level of immunity in them already. I think there’s enough immunity in the population that you’re not going to see a true fourth wave of infection.”
— Dr. Scott Gottlieb
“I think we need to stick to strict mitigation in the schools,” Gottlieb told CBS News, adding that maintaining mask requirements and social-distancing measures are crucial, to avoid intermingling in large groups. “If you’re taking those measures in schools, I think the schools can be made more safe, and I think the benefits of being in school outweigh the risks.”
In a Twitter thread later Sunday, Gottlieb said public health officials should balance mitigation measures with recognizing the population’s growing eagerness to “regain normalcy.”
A number of states have dropped mask mandates in recent weeks, and places like indoor restaurants, movie theaters and sporting events are again opening to small crowds.
“While we need to remain cautious a little longer, the situation should sharply improve this spring,” he said on Twitter. “We’ve prematurely pulled back from some mitigation like masks. We’re near a vaccine inflection point, but not quite there yet. We need another 2-3 weeks … Better days are ahead.”