Washington — Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, warned Sunday there will likely be an increase in the number of daily deaths from the coronavirus as states report spikes in the number of new infections. "We're going to have many weeks ahead of us of continued growth in these cases, at least two or three weeks, even if we take aggressive actions right now, which across the board we're not doing," Gottlieb said on "Face the Nation." "And I know a lot of the discussion right now is that these cases are clustered in younger people, so deaths are actually coming down, but that's not likely to stay that way. This spread is likely to seep into more vulnerable communities and we're likely to see total daily deaths start to go back up again."
There have been more than 2.5 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., and the death toll is more than 125,000. While some states are reporting a decrease or leveling of infections, more than two dozen states are experiencing an increase in new cases. Gottlieb said there are "major epidemics" underway in the South and Southeast, with Florida, which reported a record-breaking 9,585 new cases Saturday, in the "worst shape" and tipping toward exponential growth in new coronavirus infections. The spike in coronavirus cases follows an easing of restrictions in all 50 states, as governors allowed nonessential businesses to open again and lifted stay-at-home orders. But now, some states have put their plans for reopening on hold as they tackle the new rise in infections. Gottlieb said the country "reopened against the background of a lot of spread," indicating the number of confirmed cases was going to increase. He also faulted some states for moving into the different phases of their reopening plans too quickly. "They didn't really pause in between steps of their reopening for a sufficient amount of time to see if it was having an untoward effect," he said. "And so as they reopened parts of their economies, they should have taken two-week pauses in between. That's what states like Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan did and did it successfully so that they could measure the impact of their actions." To mitigate the continued spread of the coronavirus, Gottlieb called for universal masking, as wearing a mask will protect individuals and fellow citizens they may come into contact with. "I don't understand why we can't mandate it in states that have major epidemics underway, and there's a number that do right now," he said. "We mandate that people have to wear seat belts in cars, but we're not saying that they have to wear a mask in the setting of an epidemic." Gottlieb said that if a large percentage of the population were to wear masks regularly, "that alone could reverse the epidemic."
"It's the simplest intervention that we can take that could have an impact on the spread right now," he said.