Watch CBS News

Gottlieb says Omicron appears to be a "milder strain" of COVID-19, but pediatric danger remains

Gottlieb: Omicron appears to be "milder form" of COVID-19
Gottlieb says Omicron appears to be a "milder form" of COVID-19, but pediatric danger remains 07:07

Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Sunday that the Omicron variant appears to be a "milder strain" of COVID-19, but there still remains a danger to children. 

"There's a very clear, as I said, decoupling between cases and hospitalizations and does appear now based on a lot of experimental evidence that we've gotten just in the last two weeks, that this is a milder strain of the coronavirus appears to be a more of an upper airway disease and a lower airway disease that's good for most Americans," Gottlieb said on "Face the Nation." "The one group that may be a problem is very young kids, very young children, toddlers who have trouble with upper airway infections, and you're in fact seeing more croup-like infections and bronchiolitis in New York City among children." 

Acting New York Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said last week that pediatric hospitalizations had risen 395% in New York City since the week ending December 11. 

According to the latest data from the American Academy of Pediatrics,  COVID-19 cases among children have been increasing throughout the month of December, with nearly 199,000 reported for the week that ended December 23, which made up more than 20% of all weekly reported case. Among the 24 states reporting, children ranged from 1.8%-4.1% of total hospitalizations, and 0.1%-1.8% of all pediatric COVID-19 cases resulted in hospitalization.  

Dr. Scott Gottlieb on "Face the Nation" on January 2, 2022. CBS News

Moving into the New Year, Gottlieb said the focus should be on the hospitalization rates and how many people are becoming severely ill. 

"There is a very clear decoupling between cases at this point in hospitalizations and ICU admissions. This does appear to be a milder strain of coronavirus and we also have a lot of immunity in the population," Gottlieb said. 

Gottlieb also noted that places that have been hard hit early by the Omicron variant, such as the mid-Atlantic, the Northeast, New England, Florida and parts of the Pacific Northwest, are as soon as "two weeks away from peaking, but the rest of the country probably faces a hard month ahead of us." Gottlieb predicted the country won't start to see a national peak until February, since there are parts of the country that haven't yet been hit by the Omicron variant. 

Gottlieb said that at this point in the pandemic, cloth masks do not provide individuals with maximum protection against COVID-19 infection. 

"This is an airborne illness," Gottlieb said. "We now understand that, and a cloth mask is not going to protect you from a virus that spreads through airborne transmission. It could protect better through droplet transmission, something like the flu, but not something like this coronavirus." 

He said individuals who want the maximum amount of protection should seek to wear well N95 and KN95 masks as opposed to cloth and surgical masks. States like Connecticut and New York have already started to distribute high-quality masks to residents. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.