Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, sounded the alarm on Sunday that for Americans who remain unvaccinated, the new and highly contagious Delta variant will likely be the “most serious” infection they will ever experience in their lifetime.
“This virus is so contagious, this variant is so contagious that it’s going to infect the majority—that most people will either get vaccinated or have been previously infected or they will get this Delta variant,” Gottlieb, a physician who worked at the FDA under former Presidents Donald Trump and George W. Bush, said in a weekend interview on CBS’ Face the Nation.
“And for most people who get this Delta variant, it’s going to be the most serious virus that they get in their lifetime in terms of the risk of putting them in the hospital,” he added.
Due to the Delta variant, coronavirus cases in the United States have risen in all fifty states in recent weeks, with the seven-day average of daily infections now sitting at roughly twenty-six thousand five hundred, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
The figure represents a 67 percent jump from just a week ago, in addition to hospitalizations increasing 36 percent and deaths 26 percent.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other health officials have been warning for weeks about the Delta variant’s potential to undo the hard-fought progress made in stymieing the pandemic.
The latest CDC estimates are indicating that roughly 49 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, while 56 percent have had at least one vaccine dose. “There is a message that is crystal clear: this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Walensky told reporters in a recent news briefing.
Need for High-Quality Masks
In order to mitigate the spread of the Delta variant, Gottlieb noted that it is important for individuals to make use of N95 and other high-quality face masks and coverings.
“Quality of mask is going to make a difference with a variant that spreads more aggressively like Delta does, where people are more contagious and exude more virus,” he contended.
“Trying to get N95 masks into the hands of vulnerable individuals in places where this is really epidemic I think is going to be important, even in cases where they’re vaccinated, if they want to add another layer of protection,” he added.
Late last week, Gottlieb stated that the United States could be undercounting the number of infections due to the Delta variant, which is making it more difficult to know whether it is leading to increased hospitalizations and deaths.
“We don’t know what the denominator is right now,” he said in an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “I think we’re vastly underestimating the level of Delta spread right now because I think people who are vaccinated, who might develop some mild symptoms or might develop a breakthrough case, by and large are not going out and getting tested. If you’ve been vaccinated and you develop a mild cold right now, you don’t think you have COVID.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.