The former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration predicted Sunday that “most” unvaccinated Americans who haven’t already had COVID-19 will contract the delta variant — and it will be the “most serious” virus of their lives.
“This virus is so contagious, this variant is so contagious ... that most people will either get vaccinated or have been previously infected or they will get this delta variant,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb warned in an interview on “Face the Nation” on CBS.
“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.
Gottlieb, who served under former President Donald Trump before the pandemic, spoke as cases of the disease were climbing across America, with the seven-day average of reported coronavirus cases soaring nearly 70% last week.
All 50 states are experiencing a higher number of new cases. Among the hardest hit are states with low vaccination rates, such as Arkansas, Missouri and Florida. The Sunshine state last week accounted for 20% of all new cases in the country.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky called the new surge a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Gottlieb said he believes actual cases of the more-easily transmissible delta variant are underreported. He estimated that health officials know about only one out of 10 or 20 cases because some of those infected have mild cases and testing is not widespread.
“We’re not doing a lot of routine screening right now,” said Gottlieb, who currently serves on the board of vaccine-maker Pfizer. “Unless you work for the New York Yankees, you’re not getting tested on a regular basis. So I think that this delta wave could be far more advanced than what we’re detecting right now.”
In response to climbing cases, some communities have already begun to reinstate mask mandates or are recommending that residents wear masks and socially distance again. Gottlieb urged using high-quality masks, like N95s.
“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 said.
“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,” Gottlieb said.
Check out Gottlieb’s entire interview in the clip up top.