Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday he believes the coronavirus will peak in the U.S. around late April to early May, a timeline that suggests a longer crisis than some politicians are indicating.
Gottlieb, in a “Squawk Box” interview, said the social distancing efforts should be viewed on a horizon of “six to eight weeks,” with the goal of keeping “the peak of epidemic below the point at which the health care system gets exhausted.”
Asked how a late-April/early-May peak lines up with what schools are doing, Gottlieb said school districts that are closing and projecting late March openings are really accessing the situation on a week-by-week basis.
“I think the schools are going to end up closing for longer periods of time,” said Gottlieb, a trained physician and CNBC contributor who sits on the boards of Pfizer and biotech company Illumina.
“I think what we need to do is focus on how do we blunt the impact of the mitigation steps that we need to take to try to reduce the community transmission,” he added.
With U.S. coronavirus cases spiking to more than 3,770 with 69 deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people across America to cancel or postpone events with 50 or more attendees for the next eight weeks.
The guidance doesn’t apply to schools, universities or businesses. However, many public schools and colleges are closed, shifting learning online. Many companies are on work-for-home polices. New York City and Los Angeles closed bars and limited restaurants to takeout and delivery. The bar closures come before Tuesday’s St. Patrick’s Day, traditionally one of their busiest days of the year.
Gottlieb has been calling for governments to take more aggressive action to step the spread of the outbreak and complimented the recent measures implemented over the weekend.
“But we can’t take our foot of the brake,” he said.