coronavirus

Dr. Scott Gottlieb Urges Americans to ‘Find Excuses' to Stay Home During ‘One Last' Covid Surge

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  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb on Thursday urged Americans to take precautions in their daily life to cut down on coronavirus transmission.
  • The former FDA chief specifically advised people to take fewer trips by "trying to find excuses not to go out" instead of "excuses to go out."
  • "We have to get through the next two or three months, and so this is going to be, really, a temporary pain," he said.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb on Thursday urged Americans to take precautions in their daily life to cut down on coronavirus transmission, as the nation continues to experience a worrisome growth in new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations.

"We have to get through the next two or three months, and so this is going to be, really, a temporary pain," Gottlieb said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "We're not going back to the broad-based lockdown mitigations. We're smarter than that now. We can target the mitigation now, but we are going to have to take prudent steps."

In addition to wearing masks and avoiding indoor congregate settings, Gottlieb called on people to reduce their mobility — that is, "trying to find excuses not to go out" instead of "excuses to go out."

"This is really one last surge of infection that we have to grapple with. I do believe 2021 is going to be better," added Gottlieb, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner in the Trump administration. He pointed to advances around treating Covid-19 patients and the possibility of a widely available vaccine next year.

But with a seven-day average of new coronavirus cases now at roughly 127,600, a 35% increase from a week ago, Gottlieb stressed that action is needed right now to prevent hospitals from being deeply strained all across the United States. Already, he said that health-care systems throughout the nation are "a little pressed right now," while those in Wisconsin, the Dakotas and and parts of Texas are "overwhelmed."

Twenty-two states are experiencing all-time highs in Covid-19 patient hospitalizations, based on a seven-day average, according to a CNBC analysis of data from the COVID Tracking Project, an effort run by journalists at The Atlantic. Overall, there are more than 65,000 people in the U.S. hospitalized with Covid-19.

Hospitalizations are "rising very quickly, and that's what is concerning," Gottlieb said as governors across the United States begin to reimpose tougher restrictions on businesses in response to the worsening outbreak. On Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said bars and restaurants in New York must end on-premise service at 10 p.m. ET. In Ohio, where Covid-19 hospitalizations are up 37.4% compared with a week ago, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced new restrictions on banquets, post-funeral gatherings and wedding receptions{Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio warned that "rampant spread" of the coronavirus across the state could prompt him to reimpose tougher health restrictions on businesses.

"If the current trend continues, and cases keep increasing, we will be forced ... to close restaurants, bars and fitness centers. We will look at this one week from tomorrow," DeWine said in a statewide address.

DeWine acknowledged the economic impact such measures would have, but he said, "these are places, candidly, where it's difficult or impossible to maintain mask-wearing, which we know now is the chief way of slowing this virus."

The governor also said new restrictions will be placed in the coming days on banquets, wedding receptions and events after funerals. "We have seen great tragedy, great tragedy, associated with some these events," he said. The order will ban dancing and games, as well as require congregate areas in event spaces to be closed.

Ohio's seven-day average of new coronavirus cases is 5,049, representing an increase of 51% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. The state's seven-day average of currently hospitalized Covid-19 patients is at 2,283, per a CNBC analysis of data from the Covid Tracking Project. That is up 35% compared with one week earlier.

"This surge is much more intense, widespread and dangerous" than what Ohio experienced earlier in the pandemic, DeWine said. He also revised the state's mask mandate, requiring businesses to post signs at public entrances and also establishing a new investigative unit to increase compliance inspections.

Kevin Stankiewicz

"We have seen great tragedy, great tragedy, associated with some these events," DeWine said Wednesday in a statewide address. He also warned that if the "current trend continues" in the state, "we will be forced ... to close restaurants, bars and fitness centers."

The U.S. now has more than 10.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases, and at least 241,809 people have died, according to Hopkins data.

"People need to take steps in their own personal lives" to avoid infection, said Gottlieb, who again warned of the risks associated with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. He has said previously his family will not be holding a gathering this year.

"The bigger risk of Thanksgiving is not going to be any one setting. It's going to be the mobility, the people moving around, and people coming together in congregate settings where they feel safe, but there might be someone who is asymptomatic," Gottlieb added on Thursday.

— CNBC's Nate Rattner contributed to this report.

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus and biotech company Illumina. Gottlieb also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings′ and Royal Caribbean's "Healthy Sail Panel." 

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