Transcript: Scott Gottlieb discusses coronavirus on "Face the Nation," April 19, 2020

Gottlieb says U.S. not yet "out of the woods"
Gottlieb says U.S. not yet "out of the woods"... 06:20

The following is a transcript of an interview with former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb by CBS News' Margaret Brennan that aired Sunday, April 19, 2020, on "Face the Nation." 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. Joining us now to help us educate our viewers about new COVID-19 developments is former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb. He joins us from his home in Connecticut. Good morning to you.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Good morning. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm wondering, we heard from Dr. Birx and then we heard from the governor of Massachusetts. I know you've also been advising him. There's a lot of concern about Boston and Chicago, Birx said. What are the other areas of the country that you still see as very worrisome?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Well, I think when you look at the Southeast and the Sun Belt, you still need to be worried. You haven't seen cases really spike in Texas or Georgia. In fact, it looks like cases are slowing there. But there's parts of those states where- that are hot spots, counties that are moving very quickly. Parts of the Panhandle in Florida, you see cases growing very quickly. So the parts of the country that were later to enter their epidemic portion of this crisis, I think still are going to come out of it later. And you still have to be concerned about that. And then really any part of the country is vulnerable, even rural parts of the country, saw that with South Dakota. Once a case gets into a situation where you have people tightly packed indoors, it can spread very quickly. You see these super-spreader situations, as you saw in South Dak- Dakota. So I don't think anyone's out of the woods right now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you are seeing some governors start talking about and opening up things like beaches in Florida, parts of that state. You heard Dr. Birx say that there is, in fact, a national strategy from- for testing. Do you think that strategy is adequate?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I think it's a loose strategy. I think states are largely on their own trying to get testing resources into their states. And I think one of the things they should be doing right now is trying to work together, at least on a regional basis, to move around samples, to take advantage of capacity for testing that exists in a regional location within the country. Where we need a national strategy, first and foremost is on the testing supply chain. So all the cheap, low commodity components that go into testing like the swabs and the reagents and we've been talking about this for weeks now, those are all in short supply. We don't have shortages of them. But whatever gets produced is getting consumed because it's a global supply chain that testing sites are tugging on. And so if you had the government more engaged in trying to manage that supply chain, getting supplies to the states that need it most and trying to look for ways to increase manufacturing at a national level, that could help the states get the supplies they need. It's not the testing platforms per say that are in short supply. A lot of states have testing capacity within the states. It's the components to run those tests that they're having trouble getting their hands on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And- and Dr. Birx said that there is an attempt to try to help the states. What's missing there? What kind of coordination does there need to be between states and labs and the federal government?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Well, I think the federal government has more capacity to try to tug on that global supply chain, get more supplies into the country while other countries are competing for the same supplies. And also look at how we ramp up manufacturing of these- these components. These are low commodity components. There's a lot of plastic parts that could be 3D printed. There might be ways to increase manufacturing in the United States is something that we should be looking at trying to do if we can bring on manufacturing sites that can make some of these things here domestically--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

DR. GOTTLIEB: --both in the near term and the long term. Right now, the swing capacity in the market, if we're going to see dramatic increases in capacity coming into the market in May and June, it's going to be from new systems coming into the market. The point of care diagnostic systems like the Abbott machine that we've seen or the Cepheid GeneXpert, those companies are probably going to increase their supply of the machines that they have available and there's a couple of other companies awaiting approval with the FDA or authorization to come into the market. And now probably- probably be the inflection point if we're likely to see one, at least in May and June.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said employers should look at things like onsite testing before their employees return to work. Do you think that's something that governors should mandate companies to have? What corporation is going to spend the money unless they're required to do so?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Right. I don't think it should be a mandate because there's a lot of corporations that are going to have difficulty bringing this onsite. I think the government can play a role in helping to subsidize these activities in the near term so that we can make sure it's available not just to white collar jobs and offices, but also shop floors and factories where there's actually more risk to employees because it can't naturally social distance or helping small businesses come together and put machines in local communities because they're going to have a hard time doing this. You're going to see a lot of office based jobs actually bring testing onsite. I'm talking to a lot of companies that are actively working on this right now. And you're going to see provider groups step in to provide those facilities to companies. And what I worry about is it's not going to be available to all employees and employees who are most at risk of contracting COVID at work because they can't naturally social distance are the ones who aren't going to have access to these facilities. And so I think states have a role to play in helping to democratize these kinds of technologies so that more employees can take advantage of them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And does that mean expanding the health care requirement, the paid leave policies that expire under current legislation in December?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Yeah, look, I- I have a letter I'm working on with a bunch of public health officials, a bipartisan group making recommendations to Congress to look at ways to provide paid sick leave to people who have diagnosed COVID so that they can self-isolate at home, as well as provide money to people who are self-isolating at home awaiting a test result. You don't want getting a positive COVID-19 test result to be punitive. You don't want to tell people they have to self-isolate at home and, oh, by the way, they're going to lose wages and they're going to incur other expenses and hardships. So while you don't want to make it something that's fin- and a financial inducement to get coronavirus, you also don't want to make it punitive. And we have to balance that. We have to find that happy medium. And that means, I think, providing for lost wages and maybe providing a stipend, a small stipend to people similar to what we do when they serve on jury duty because there are costs that people are going to incur by self-isolating at home if they have a coronavirus illness. And as a society, we're going to want them to do that. That's how we're going to stop the spread.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And very quickly, how close are we to some kind of treatment or a vaccine and is China going to beat us there?

DR. GOTTLIEB: There's a risk that China may get to a vaccine first. I don't think they're Adenoviral vector vaccine is very good, but they may get it to the market before we do. I think that is a concern. In terms of the vaccine here in the United States, we may have hundreds of thousands of doses available in the fall for testing. And if there is an outbreak, a big outbreak in an American city, I think it would be made available in that city under some kind of protocol. So we would have it available in this setting of an outbreak, certainly not a national epidemic like we have right now. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. 

DR. GOTTLIEB: We may have one or more treatments by the fall. I don't think anyone's going to be a home run, but we may have something that can help.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Dr. Gottlieb, thank you very much, as always, for your insight. 

DR. GOTTLIEB: Thanks a lot. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a look at the financial fallout from the coronavirus crisis.