We’re in the second inning of coronavirus epidemic and will face a ‘different threat’ in the fall, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says

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Dr. Scott Gottlieb

Cameron Costa | CNBC

The U.S. is in the second inning of the coronavirus epidemic as the growth in newly confirmed Covid-19 cases slows, hopefully giving the country a “breather” over the summer, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said at CNBC Events’ Healthy Returns virtual conference Tuesday.

“We’ve now seen the virus whip around the world and we’re now grappling with our own epidemic here in the United States and are starting to plateau and hopefully come down the epidemic curve,” said Gottlieb, a CNBC contributor who sits on the boards of Pfizer and biotech company Illumina.

However, he said the U.S. will face a “very different threat” heading into the fall, winter and spring of next year as the virus settles into a more “seasonal pattern.”

“We can all take a breather in the summer. I’m very worried about fall when we come back but I’m hopeful that infections start to break off later in the summer,” he said.

Until there is a vaccine or the country reaches a level of so-called herd immunity, transmission could continue, according to Gottlieb.

“And at some point, you get to a level of exposure as we continue on this slow burn where a lot of people have had it and transmission will start to slow down. But this is still the early innings to this epidemic,” he said.

Gottlieb also discussed the potential decrease in coronavirus transmission if new infections plateau for some time. While it’s unclear whether the U.S. can achieve herd immunity without a vaccine, he said most people will start developing a certain level of neutralizing antibodies. Herd immunity is achieved when most of the world’s 7.6 billion people are vaccinated or develop the antibodies, giving the virus no where to go.

“We should just assume that most people are going to develop a level of immunity that’s going to last a period of time of around a year or perhaps less for some people,” said Gottlieb.

Earlier Tuesday, Gottlieb said states that eased coronavirus restrictions and began reopening nonessential businesses such as Alabama, South Dakota and Texas, have begun to see a jump in the number of confirmed cases. 

“The bottom line is a lot of states are now reopening activity against a backdrop that doesn’t meet the criteria that the White House set out in terms of when it would be safe to reopen,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “We’re going to see cases go up now that we’re reopening.”

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