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Dr. Scott Gottlieb says Northeast has yet to see ‘true delta wave’

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Dr. Scott Gottlieb on Friday predicted Northeastern states, including New York and Connecticut, will experience another jump in Covid cases tied to the highly transmissible delta variant.

“I think there’s sort of a perception that we’re sort of through this delta wave here in the Northeast because we’ve seen delta cases go up and go down in places like the New York metropolitan region. We’re also seeing [test] positive come down,” the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“I don’t think that that was the true delta wave. I think that that was a delta warning. I think our true delta wave is going to start to build after Labor Day here in the Northeast and the northern part of the country,” added Gottlieb, who now serves on the board of Covid vaccine maker Pfizer.

The Covid delta variant hit the American South earlier than other parts of the country, and now the summer infection surge there has clearly peaked, Gottlieb said. But in the Northeast, Gottlieb said he believes Labor Day weekend gatherings and kids returning to school will serve as “incubators for spread.”

“Now whether we see a wave of infection as dense and severe as the South, I don’t think that’s going to be the case because we have a lot more vaccination; we’ve had a lot of prior infection, which we also know is protective,” said Gottlieb, who led the FDA from 2017 to 2019 in the Trump administration. “But we will probably see a build in cases here in the Northeast. I don’t think that we’re done with this.”

Schools

Gottlieb said his advice to schools that have brought kids back for in-person learning, or will soon be doing so, is to increase their coronavirus testing frequency, in addition to other protective measures such as masks and improving ventilation.

“We’ve seen a lot of studies right now that if you do routine testing in the schools once a week — and preferably twice a week — you’re going to pick up infection before it becomes dense epidemics in that school setting,” Gottlieb said.

“There’s things that the schools can be doing, but the schools are a risk factor for spread within the schools and also becoming sources of community transmission,” added Gottlieb, pointing to the spike in school-related coronavirus cases Michigan experienced in March and April, as the state faced a large Covid outbreak.

At that time, the contagious alpha Covid variant, which was first discovered in the U.K., was partly responsible for driving up infections in Michigan schools, Gottlieb said. “The risk is the same thing happens with this delta variant,” which the World Health Organization estimates, is about 55% more transmissible than alpha.

“So, I think schools need to go into the year with in mind they have to implement mitigation that is hopefully going to control spread,” Gottlieb said.

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus, health-care tech company Aetion and biotech company Illumina. He also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line’s and Royal Caribbean’s “Healthy Sail Panel.”


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