Former FDA commissioner warns that coronavirus testing in the US will ‘likely’ reveal a case count in the ‘high thousands or probably low ten thousands’

Former FDA commissioner warns that coronavirus testing in the US will ‘likely’ reveal a case count in the ‘high thousands or probably low ten thousands’
Coronaviruses with their distinctive crowns. CDC/Dr Fred Murphy

On Friday morning, Bloomberg News’ Tim Loh reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved a “new coronavirus test” that will “speed up by tenfold the ability to test patients” in the United States. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who served as FDA commissioner from 2017-2019, is applauding the news in a Twitter thread — although he warns that testing is likely to reveal how severe Americans’ exposure to coronavirus is.


In his thread, Gottlieb predicts that the test “will substantially increase patient testing capacity by end of next week by tens of thousands a day across all labs, commercial and academic.” And he goes on to describe what the coronavirus testing might show.

“We are likely to find that spread is far more distributed in communities across U.S., and while total case count may still be in high thousands or probably low ten thousands, the widespread seeding make an epidemic inevitable,” Gottlieb tweets. “Aggressive social distancing now must be focus.”

Gottlieb warns that hospitals in the U.S. will need to be prepared for a “surge” in coronavirus patients.

“We must also prepare hospitals for a surge in cases requiring advanced care that could start to become obvious in few weeks as people currently being infected start to develop complications,” Gottlieb explains. “Time to hospitalization is more than a week, so will take time for these cases to present.”

The former FDA commissioner goes on to explain that the U.S. “must focus on slowing” the spread of coronavirus “through tough mitigation steps and reducing the scope and severity of the epidemic by good medical planning. Every day, every hour, is critical to preparedness.”

Gottlieb concludes his thread by encouraging coronavirus preparedness at the state and local levels.

“The steps already being taken by businesses, cities, states to implement mitigation measures to achieve social distancing will have a tangible impact on the epidemiology of spread,” Gottlieb notes. “Private industry, states like New York, have been leading the way with these aggressive measures.”

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