Dr. Scott Gottlieb fears U.S. headed for 'most dangerous season' for coronavirus infections

  • "As we head into the fall and winter, the conditions are right to see continued, more aggressive spread of this virus," Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC. 
  • "We're taking an awful lot of infection into probably what is going to be the most dangerous season for this virus," the former FDA chief added. 
  • Gottlieb's comments came one day after global deaths from Covid-19 topped 1 million.

The United States could be entering its "most dangerous season" for coronavirus infections, Dr. Scott Gottlieb warned on Tuesday, as the colder weather brings more people indoors. 

"As we head into the fall and winter, the conditions are right to see continued, more aggressive spread of this virus," Gottlieb said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." He urged Americans to adhere to public health measures aimed at mitigating the spread such as wearing masks and social distancing.

"Kids are back in school, kids are back in college campuses. Work is trying to restart. People are becoming more complacent and tired of the restrictions, and so all of those conditions are going to set up a fall and winter that, I think, is going to create a lot of risk," he added. 

Gottlieb's comments came one day after global deaths from Covid-19 topped 1 million, and one week after the U.S. eclipsed 200,000 deaths. 

The former Food and Drug Administration commissioner under President Donald Trump added he's concerned about the current number of new daily infections in the U.S., echoing remarks made Monday by White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.

With an average of new cases over 40,000 per day, Fauci said the U.S. is "not in a good place" as it enters the fall and winter. 

Gottlieb said Tuesday, "You're certainly seeing the rising infections right now, so we're taking an awful lot of infection into probably what is going to be the most dangerous season for this virus."

Although he sees more risk for infections, Gottlieb noted the U.S. has been able to improve the way it treats Covid-19 patients during the course of the pandemic, leading to a declining mortality rate. For that reason, Gottlieb said he believes the forecast from the University of Washington that projected more than 400,000 Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. by the end of 2020 is "probably wrong." 

"I don't think we're going to get that high by the end of the year because I think we're doing a much better job of preserving life in the hospital," said Gottlieb, who in late July worried America might see 300,000 deaths by year-end if trends at the time persisted. 

However, he now expressed concerns that advancements in care, such as the availability of therapeutic drugs, may be counteracted by a "resurgence in infections that dwarfs the other waves that we've had." 

"We will compensate with more infection for what we're gaining in improvements in outcomes for patients. That's my fear, at least," he said Tuesday.  

If people in the U.S. forgo public health strategies such as wearing face masks, Gottlieb said, "the price we're probably going to have to pay for it, heading into the fall and winter, is tolerating more infection." 

Disclosure: 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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