Transcript: Scott Gottlieb discusses coronavirus on "Face the Nation," May 24, 2020

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

The following is a transcript of an interview with former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb by CBS News' Margaret Brennan that aired Sunday, May 24, 2020, on "Face the Nation." 


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Westport, Connecticut and former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb. Good to have you back with us. 

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Thanks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The president just tweeted that cases, numbers and deaths are down across the country. What are you seeing?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Well, look, this isn't contained yet. 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. So when we get back to work, we need to get back to work differently. When you look across the country, you see hospitalizations going up in many states: Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Arizona. You saw hospitalizations coming down about three weeks ago over a two week period. And then in the last week you're starting to see them tick up. Now, 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 still continuing to spread. And we might not be able to fully contain this until we get to a vaccine or better therapeutics.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you said if people are careful, they can kind of take a little bit of a breather. What does that actually mean? What can you do now that you couldn't do a few weeks ago?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Well, look, we- we think there is going to be a seasonal effect here. We don't know how strong that's gonna be, meaning when we get into the summer, particularly July and August, we should see cases start to come down. And so people can start to go out again, I think, and start to enjoy some semblance of the lives that they want to enjoy over the course of the summer. But we should still be careful. We should still try to social distance. You know, narrow your circle of friends that you interact with. Try to go shopping a little less, try to group your shopping to maybe one time a week or two times a week instead of going out everyday. Practice good hygiene with your hands. So all the things that we told people to do, if we do that on a broad basis across our whole population, it could have a big impact on spread. But 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. That's what we need to be focused on right now, getting the tools in place to prevent that in the fall.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, the president went golfing yesterday in a part of Virginia that's still technically under a stay-at-home order. He's not publicly wearing masks at least. The vice president went to- to Georgia this week, a state that they initially objected to having relaxed restrictions too soon. Do you see this public messaging as dangerous because it's not signaling the caution you are saying is making it look like things are back to normal?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I think governors, elected leaders should be setting a strong example on what kind of behavior we should engage in. Because if- if we do engage in that careful behavior, 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. And so if we, you know, cut down a little bit on the social interaction and the social activity, things we don't necessarily need to- need to be doing, we could focus more on doing more of the things we should be doing to try to restart the economy. And that's where I'd be focused. That's what I would be messaging, trying to put in place good practices so that we don't see an upswing in cases. We're going to see a bump in cases, and we're seeing it right now. The question is, how much and are we then going to have to reimplement some of these mitigation steps? I hope not. I think that as we get into the summer, that's going to be a backstop against spread and maybe it will balance it- balance out. But then we face a fall where we've had this slow burn of infection through the summer. It never really went away. It was never contained. And we face risks as we get back to school, get back to college campuses, get back to work more fully in the fall.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So all 50 states are opening partially. Can they stay open in the fall if there's a resurgence? The president says he won't shut the country down again.

DR. GOTTLIEB: I think what we need to have in the fall, what we need to have in place, is really good data to track where the outbreaks are and where the virus is spreading at a local level. And we put up a tool today on the American Enterprise Institute website that tries to do that. It is just one tool. I think we need to develop better tools like this. And I know many people in the White House are working on this. Kevin Hassett, my friend in the White House, has been working on trying to get more data feeds and to build a tool that can help identify where the hotspots are early so that we can target measures so that we don't have to close down the whole economy and maybe don't even have to close down an entire state if there's an outbreak in a state, but can focus on the counties, getting testing to at-risk people and at-risk communities, trying to take local mitigation steps. So what you might see is local school districts closed down as there are- are outbreaks, but not an entire state. That's the goal. The goal is to get good information, more real time, so we can target the interventions so we don't have to do this national shutdown or even statewide shutdowns. But that's going to be dependent upon good screening, good case-based interventions, the ability to go in and actually target people, isolate people who have the infection and actually look at a local level and know where there are outbreaks, whether it's in a local factory or a shop warehouse or a local community.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you agree with the national security adviser that the U.S. will get a vaccine before China does and "share it with the whole world" as he said?

DR. GOTTLIEB: I think we will. I mean, the- the Chinese have four vaccines in clinical development right now. One is based on a novel platform, an adenoviral vector platform. The data came out last week in The Lancet on that. It didn't look overwhelmingly strong. It was positive. It provided some immunity. It's probably going to work. They have three other vaccines in development based on old technology, inactivated virus. Those vaccines, if they do work, probably are going to provide lower levels of immunity than the platforms that the U.S. and Europeans are working with. So 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 development, some of the early progress that we've shown.

 MARGARET BRENNAN: The Health and Human Services secretary was with us last weekend and said they're whittling it down from 14 to about a handful of candidates. Do you know which vaccines are most promising at this point?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Well, the two that are perceived to be the furthest along in terms of where they are in clinical development, that've shown some preliminary evidence of benefit, are the one by Oxford that was now partnered with AstraZeneca and then the vaccine with Moderna where they're partnered with Lonza on their manufacturing. There's a number of manufacturers that are either equidistant to them or not far behind. I'm on the board of Pfizer. They have a vaccine in clinical development right now in clinical trials, Phase 1, Phase 2 trials. J&J has a vaccine. Merck has a vaccine. Sanofi has a vaccine. All look promising based on public statements they made and some of the preliminary evidence that they put out.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we hope to see that information about progress soon. Dr. Gottlieb, thank you very much, as always, for your analysis. 

DR. GOTTLIEB: Thanks a lot. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.