Any changes in policies that critical states like Texas and Florida decide to implement now are unlikely to affect the spread of the coronavirus in the coming weeks, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Thursday.
Due to the delay in the time it takes for an infected person to develop symptoms, get tested, and receive results, a confirmed case today could reflect an infection that occurred up to three weeks ago, Gottlieb said. He added that even if states currently fighting outbreaks implemented stricter measures, cases would continue to rise for some time.
“I think it will be difficult to get this under control now,” Gottlieb said in “Squawk Box.” “Whatever these states are doing right now will really help them in about two weeks, maybe a little more than that. Whatever the policy decisions they made a week or two ago, that’s what we’re seeing right now. moment”.
California, Florida and Texas reported record jumps in a single day in new cases on Wednesday. California reported 7,149 new cases Wednesday, bringing the state total to 190,222, according to the state health department. Florida reported 5,508 new cases on Wednesday, breaking the previous record single-day rise and bringing the state total to 109,014, according to the state health department. And Texas reported 5,551 new cases on Wednesday, with a total of 125,921 confirmed cases.
In New York City, which had been the epicenter of the US outbreak. US officials issued an order to stay home on March 20, but the new daily cases did not peak until April 6, when the city reported 6,376 new cases, according to the city health department.
“So we know that there is a delay between the implementation of the policy and that it really affects the scope of the epidemic,” said Gottlieb. “The next week or two is largely based on the impact it can have on politics, so you should start to think a little bit more long-term, where you think you are going to be in two weeks based on the current trajectory and start implementing policies to try to affect that. “
Governors of Florida and Texas, as well as some other states that have reported signs of an expanding epidemic, have voiced doubts about ordering companies to close again or imposing more restrictions on people. Neither Texas nor Florida have implemented mask mandates across the state, but both recently allowed local and municipal officials to issue such orders to their residents.
“They are not going to close their economies. It is very clear,” said Gottlieb. “They are going to weather this, but they need to see some selected closings of congregated settings like, perhaps, bars.”
While national attention remains on states reporting the largest spikes in new cases, Gottlieb said the outbreaks now appear to be worsening in several other states as well, including Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas. Officials in those states could start implementing restrictions again if their hospital systems begin to face pressure, Gottlieb said.
“This is no longer limited to a handful of states,” he said. “When hospitals begin to be pressured, they will put pressure on policy makers to try to take steps to ease the burden on health care systems.”
While the governors of Florida and Texas have said there is large hospital capacity across the state, some particularly affected parts of those states are beginning to approach capacity. In Houston, for example, Texas Children’s Hospital said this week it will begin admitting adult patients to relieve burdened hospitals.
Testing continues to increase in most states, Gottlieb noted, helping health officials detect new cases and potentially intervene early by asking infected people to stay home while they recover. However, he added that in some states, including Florida, testing has actually decreased in recent weeks.
“If you do not want to close the economy, you have to decide what you are for and if you are going to be against universal masking, and against evidence, against tracking and you do not want to close. In the economy, you will only have to tolerate a very large epidemic” Gottlieb said.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and member of Pfizer’s boards, Genetic Testing Begins Tempus and the Illumina biotech company.