U.S. coronavirus trajectory looks 'a lot like Europe' as cases rise, Dr. Scott Gottlieb warns

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Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Wednesday that the United States’ latest surge in coronavirus cases has the country following the path of Europe, where intensifying outbreaks has nations such as Germany weighing partial lockdowns.

“We’re about maybe three weeks behind Europe. Maybe a month at the most, so we’re on a trajectory to look a lot like Europe as we enter the month of November, so I think things are going to get worse,” Gottlieb said on “Squawk Box.”

The former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner said the American uptick in cases and hospitalizations has not yet taken on the same tenor as in some European countries because the spread of the coronavirus is more diffuse.

“The density of the epidemic underway in European countries like France, Italy and the U.K. right now far exceeds what’s underway in the United States,” he said. “For the most part, it’s a little bad everywhere in the United States. It’s not really, really bad anywhere with the exception of maybe Wisconsin, the Dakotas, Utah.”

Wisconsin on Tuesday reported a record number of deaths and new cases. And in Utah, school districts are shifting to online-only classes as the state’s rate of infection reaches an all-time high. In the U.S. overall, the average number of new daily infections has set another record. On Tuesday, in particular, the country reported 73,240 new cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

“We’re at the beginning of that steep part of the epidemic curve right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if we challenge 100,000 diagnosed cases this week. We’ll certainly get above 90,000 towards the end of the week if all the states report,” said Gottlieb, who led the FDA from May 2017 to April 2019 in the Trump administration.

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing leaders of the nation’s 16 states to tighten business restrictions as daily coronavirus cases hit a record high, potentially including the closure of bars and restaurants. France recently reported its highest 24-hour death total since April, and many doctors in the country are calling for a nationwide lockdown as Covid-19 patients occupy over half of hospital ICU capacity.

Gottlieb maintained his belief that the U.S. is unlikely to see widespread stay-at-home orders that mirror the public-health restrictions implemented earlier this year as the country grappled with its first surge in Covid cases. That’s because the public’s willingness to accept such measures simply isn’t there, he said.

However, more targeted restrictions such as curfews and dining restrictions in cities and regions where Covid outbreaks have become especially intense are likely and needed, he said. Indeed, in Chicago, indoor dining at bars and restaurants will be suspended beginning Friday.

“What we should be doing is trying to implement things now that are easy, or easier, to get ahead to not wait for this to truly become very dense. My concern is that we’re not doing that,” Gottlieb said.

Gottlieb has previously warned that the even though the length of hospital stay and mortality rates are falling, the sheer number of new coronavirus infections means the U.S. is likely to see “staggering” death totals in the months ahead.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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

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