Florida and Texas are “wild card” states that could leave the United States with more deaths from the coronavirus if they don’t take tougher actions, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a Wednesday interview with CNBC.
Gottlieb said he was optimistic the U.S. could still flatten the curve and perhaps avoid the 100,00 to 240,000 coronavirus deaths that White House officials warned could result from the virus even if strict measures were taken across the country.
But he said he was worried about “populist” states such as Texas and Florida that he said had not taken stringent measures.
“I think the real wild card here, and the decision point on whether or not we’re going to have the bad outcome that Drs. Fauci and Birx talk about, is what populist states like Texas and Florida do,” Gottlieb said, referring to Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: White House projects grim death toll from coronavirus | Trump warns of ‘painful’ weeks ahead | US surpasses China in official virus deaths | CDC says 25 percent of cases never show symptoms Good communication will help beat COVID-19 14 things to know for today about coronavirus MORE, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Deborah Birx, the coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force.
Gottlieb, the FDA commissioner under President TrumpDonald John TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it’s requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE from 2017 to 2019, said the two states hadn’t really taken aggressive steps even now and that “if they don’t get more aggressive we could be on the cusp of some bad outcomes.”
Both states, he said, have large urban areas with dense populations. And he said Florida is particularly in danger of a large epidemic.
“I don’t understand why those governors have not acted more forcefully right now,” said Gottlieb. “Especially when you look at a state like Florida.
“Florida has a very large epidemic underway. There’s multiple hot spots, they were probably seeded in early February. Now they have large clusters.”
He said the state was looking like New York, which has the most coronavirus cases in the nation, “only two weeks behind.”
Florida also has an older population and many nursing homes that could be vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak.
One thing the state has going for it, he said, is warming weather.
“Now they have a break as well. They have a warmer climate and humidity. That’s going to help them,” Gottlieb said.
Both states can avoid a worse crisis by taking aggressive actions now, he stressed. Gottlieb repeatedly pressed the states to do so, saying he did not understand why they had not acted more forcefully.
Millions in Texas have been told to stay home, but Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has left it to local officials to decide on those measures. Residents of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio have all been told to stay home.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisFlorida gov says if White House recommended stay-at-home order it would ‘carry a lot of weight’ America’s governors should fix unemployment insurance Snowbirds in limbo as coronavirus upends travel plans MORE (R) has ordered people in parts of southeast Florida to stay home but has not issued an order for the entire state.
Gottlieb said on Wednesday that there were some positive signs that social distancing measures keeping people in their homes were having the desired effect.
He said it looked like cases were falling in San Francisco and that those in Seattle haven’t increased, despite a large cluster of cases and early efforts going poorly.
He also said the crisis in New York could peak next week as a result of social distancing measures.
Gottlieb also said cities like Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Detroit, which he said would have large outbreaks, did take steps to social distance earlier than other cities that hopefully will have an impact.