As the Delta variant continues its spread across the U.S., many parts of the country are struggling to keep up and fight back. COVID cases and hospitalizations are skyrocketing throughout the country, overwhelming hospital systems in the hardest-hit states. Some cities are even asking residents to “use 911 sparingly” because they cannot handle other emergencies amid the current Delta surge. But as some areas reach these worst-case scenario situations, other parts of the country may not be far behind.
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Scott Gottlieb, MD, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), told CNBC that he expects the spread of the Delta variant to remain significant in the coming months, transferring its surge to different parts of the country at different times.
“You’re going to see the Delta wave course through probably between late September through October,” Gottlieb said during an Aug. 13 interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “Hopefully we’ll be on the other side of it or coming on the other side of it sometime in November, and we won’t see a big surge of infection after this on the other side of this Delta wave.”
The Delta surge is currently walloping the South. According to a CNN analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), eight states now make up half of all U.S. COVID hospitalizations, with almost all of them Southern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, and Texas. But rates of Delta infections and hospitalizations will slow down here soon and begin to rise in the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, Gottlieb said.
“This is a big country and the Delta wave is going to sweep across the country in a regionalized fashion,” he explained. “By September, hopefully you’ll see the other side of that curve in the South very clearly, but cases will be picking up in the Northeast, the Great Lakes region, maybe the Pacific Northwest … It’s probably going to coincide with a restart in school, some businesses returning if you look at last summer as well.”
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After October, Gottlieb said he expects that Delta variant infections will calm down across the entire country—but that doesn’t mean COVID will be gone completely. “We’re transitioning from this being a pandemic to being more of an endemic virus, at least here in the United States and probably other Western markets,” he explained. An endemic virus is one that remains in the country at a relatively low frequency, like the flu.
He added, “It’s not a binary point in time, but I think after we get through this Delta wave, this is going to become more of an endemic illness where you just see sort of a persistent infection through the winter … but not at the levels that we’re experiencing certainly right now, and it’s not necessarily dependent upon the booster shot.”
Gottlieb also suggested that the coronavirus will be around for years during an April interview with CNBC, saying that the U.S. was unlikely to ever reach “true herd immunity.”
“I don’t think we should be thinking about achieving herd immunity. I don’t know that we ever achieve true herd immunity, where this virus just stops circulating,” Gottlieb said on CNBC’s Closing Bell. “I think it’s always going to circulate at a low level. That should be the goal, to keep the level of virus down.”
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