With the U.S. economy flailing amid the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting government shutdown orders, President Donald Trump and governors in multiple states have begun to explore reopening commercial activity and easing restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus. However, the former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautions that pulling back on efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus could yield dire consequences.
Scott Gottlieb -- who served as FDA commissioner from March 2017 until April 2019, was previously a member of Trump's 2016 transition team and practiced internal medicine before entering the political arena -- made the proclamation during an appearance on CBS' Face the Nation. As relayed by Politico, he warned that allowing schools, businesses, and other public spaces to reopen could potentially result in a "new epidemic" or "large outbreak" in the fall.
"The concerning thing here is that we're looking at the prospect that this may be a persistent spread," he said.
Gottlieb noted that coronavirus cases are still on the rise in about 20 states. Illinois, Texas, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and others have all seen an uptick. Per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. saw 30,326 new confirmed cases and 1,829 new deaths on May 2. And while there hasn't been a significant rise in reported cases in recent days, the country has yet to see a sustained reduction, either.
According to Gottlieb, mitigation efforts up to this point have helped, but perhaps not as well as hoped.
"While mitigation didn't fail, I think it's fair to say that it didn't work as well as we expected. We expected that we would start seeing more significant declines in new cases and deaths around the nation at this point, and we're just not seeing that."Although he believes that the new drug Remdesivir could help in the battle against the virus, Gottlieb stressed that the government must accept "the fact that there's just going to be persistent spread" of COVID-19 and that reopening the economy on any level will require major steps beyond what is being done currently to ensure the situation doesn't worsen.Nevertheless, protesters around the nation have called for their state and local governments to reopen their economies and some federal officials agree. Senator John Kennedy believes that the American economy will "collapse" if lockdowns continue.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence seemingly sees the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, saying that the U.S. may have seen the worst of COVID-19 by early June.