Dr. Scott Gottlieb: ‘Covid cases in the U.S. should peak in January’

The next two to three months will be difficult for Americans as the coronavirus sweeps the nation and the second surge of the virus picks up steam, says Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the FDA and a CNBC contributor speaking at CNBC’s first Workforce Executive Council Summit on Thursday. As he points out, even as drug manufacturers make progress on a vaccine and treatments, epidemiologists, scientists and public health officials are warning that the United States has yet to see the most difficult days of the outbreak.

“We are three to four weeks behind Europe now and we are headed in the same direction in terms of the progression of the disease,” he said. “We are not moving fast enough to change our behaviors, reduce mobility and take policy actions to stop the trend.”

“Looking at the epidemic curve, Covid cases will peak in January and we will see cases starting to decline in March,” Gottlieb predicted.

“Hopefully, we should have some semblance of normalcy in the summer of 2021. By that time, it’s hoped the older population will be vaccinated. By the fall of 2021, the vaccine will be more available to people of all ages.”

Although the U.S. has more tools to fight the virus than ever before, it will take time for them to be available for widespread use. 

Pfizer and BioNTech released early data from their late-stage vaccine trial on Monday that indicated it was more than 90% effective. If authorized, the vaccine could be available to a limited number of people as early as December, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Pfizer said it can make enough doses of its two-dose vaccine to immunize about 25 million out of roughly 331 million Americans before the end of the year.

The upcoming holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Diwali, Hanukkah and New Year’s create the potential for super-spreading events across the country, experts concur.