Dr. Scott Gottlieb says the Covid Delta spike might peak in late August

Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Thursday that the current spike in Covid infections due to the highly contagious Delta variant could possibly be over sooner than many experts believe.

However, the former FDA chief urged the Americans to take precautions in the meantime, as the delta, first found in India, is establishing itself as the dominant variant in the United States

“I think the bottom line is that we’ll see continued growth for at least the next three to four weeks. There will probably be a climax sometime around the end of August, beginning of September, ”said Gottlieb in“ Squawk Box ”. “I happen to think that we are further in this delta wave than we measure, so this could be over sooner than we think. But we don’t really know because we’re not doing a lot of testing right now either.”

There could be another small spike in infection rates as schools reopen in the fall and become “transmission vectors” as was the case with the B.1.1.7 variant first discovered in the UK and now known as Alpha said Gottlieb, who heads the Food and Drug Administration from 2017 to 2019 during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Gottlieb also warned that simply wearing masks, especially cloth masks, may not be enough to prevent Covid infections from the Delta variant in classrooms. He advised schools to create capsules, distribute children in the classroom, avoid group meals and suspend certain major activities, and improve air filtration and quality levels.

“You could be doing other things that actually do a greater risk reduction than the masks in a much more contagious variety that we know will spread with masks too,” said Gottlieb. “If we are to tell people to wear masks, I think we need to start educating people better about the quality of masks and the differences in the reduction and risk you get with different types of masks . “

For companies looking to get people back into their offices, Gottlieb said October may be a “more prudent” time than September.

Gottlieb, who sits on the board of directors at Covid vaccine maker Pfizer, said the critical question right now is how likely it is that vaccinated people will transmit the virus if they become infected. He said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should collect this data as it is likely that the current Delta variant could be the newer, more permanent form of the coronavirus in the future.

“When you’re dealing with a new variant where the levels of virus you get at the beginning of your infection are a thousand times higher than the original strain, it’s possible that you’re shedding more viruses and being more contagious,” he said.

Local officials across the country are advising and issuing indoor mask mandates as the highly transmissible Delta variant is causing Covid cases and deaths to rise again in the US, especially in largely unvaccinated communities.

Nearly 162 million people in the US are fully vaccinated – nearly 49% of the country’s population – although the rate of daily vaccinations has dropped sharply in recent months, according to a CDC tracker.

The CDC relaxed its Covid guidelines on masks for fully vaccinated people on May 13th.

However, as Delta has gotten stronger, health experts are warning people to return to using masks and following public health measures. White House senior medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNBC on Wednesday that even fully vaccinated people should consider wearing masks indoors as a protective measure against the Delta variant.

Last week, Gottlieb told CNBC that he believes the US “largely underestimates” the number of Covid Delta infections, especially in vaccinated people with mild symptoms, making it harder to understand if the variant is causing unexpected hospitalizations and death rates leads .

“The final here was always one last wave of infections,” Gottlieb told CNBC on Thursday. “We had expected that this summer would be relatively calm and that we would have an infection surge with B.1.1.7 in the fall, and that would be the last wave of the pandemic phase of this virus and we would enter” a rather endemic phase in which this virus simply becomes a fact of life and circulates at a certain level. “

But unlike earlier last year, he added, “We have therapeutics and vaccines to deal with it, we’re better at treatment, and it’s going to be some kind of second flu.”

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the board of directors of Pfizer, genetic testing startup Tempus, health technology company Aetion, and biotechnology company Illumina. He is also co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean.

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