Ex-FDA chief Scott Gottlieb warns coronavirus "isn't contained yet"

Gottlieb on COVID crisis: "This isn't contained yet"
Gottlieb on COVID crisis: "This isn't contain... 06:17

Washington — Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, warned Sunday that the coronavirus epidemic "isn't contained yet" as all 50 states begin to ease restrictions imposed to curtail the spread of the coronavirus heading into the summer months.

"This isn't contained yet," Gottlieb said on "Face the Nation." "That doesn't mean we can't go out and start doing things, get back to some semblance of a normal life, but we need to do things differently. We need to define a new normal."

While hospitalizations dropped several weeks ago over a two-week period, the rate is beginning to increase once again in several states, including Florida, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland. Gottlieb, however, said that "shouldn't be surprising."

"We expected cases to go up and hospitalizations to bump up as we reopened, but we need to understand this isn't contained and it's continuing to spread," he said, adding that the coronavirus may not be fully contained until there a vaccine or therapeutics are available.

Gottlieb and other public health experts believe the coronavirus could be seasonal, and the number of new cases expected to tick down during the summer months, particularly July and August. When that does occur, the former FDA head said people can begin a return to normal life. But he cautioned that Americans should still practice social distancing measures, narrow their circle of friends to limit interactions and curb their public outings.

"If we do that on a broad basis across a whole population, it can have a big impact on spread," he said. "The virus is likely to continue to circulate. We're likely to have this slow burn through the summer and then face renewed risk in the fall that we're going to have bigger outbreaks and potentially epidemics in certain states and cities."

As shuttered restaurants and stores begin to open their doors and beach-goers returned, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have also begun to venture outside Washington, D.C. Mr. Trump spent Saturday and Sunday at his golf club in northern Virginia, while Pence traveled last week to Florida and Georgia.

Gottlieb said governors and other elected officials "should be setting a strong example on what kind of behavior we should engage in" and stressed that it's vital to put in place good practices to prevent an upswing in cases.

"If we're more careful in what we do, I think that's actually going to facilitate a successful reopening and getting back to the important things, getting back to the economic activity," he said.

Many public health experts believe a successful coronavirus vaccine will be crucial for a full reopening of the country and return to normal activity, and the world is racing to secure a vaccine. Last week, the Trump administration threw $1.2 billion behind a vaccine developed by scientists at Oxford University and licensed by AstraZeneca and is narrowing down a pool of more than a dozen vaccine candidates. China also has four vaccines in development.

Gottlieb said he believes the U.S. will beat China in securing a vaccine.

"I think we're going to have a better vaccine and I think we're probably going to have it sooner based on where we are in clinical developments," he said.