Former Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Monday said it likely won’t be until September before the United States is at an ideal testing capacity amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr. Gottlieb said an ideal target is to have roughly 1% of the U.S. population, or about 3 million people, tested every week. There have been about 3.9 million total tests conducted in the U.S. as of Monday morning, according to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University.
“We’re not going to be there — we’re not going to be there in May; we’re not going to be there in June,” Dr. Gottlieb said on NBC’s “Today” show. “Hopefully we’ll be there by September.”
“We won’t have the testing we want until September, I think, in terms of the kind of broad coverage. You’re still going to see high positivity rates heading into May,” he said. “We’re also not going to have all the public health workers to do the contact tracing — that’s going to be another limitation.”
Dr. Gottlieb acknowledged that it’s a risk for states to start reopening some businesses and relaxing social distancing measures in the coming weeks, but that it’s not realistic for them to take a “wait and see” approach until the fall.
“If we wait until we have sort of the optimal framework for testing, we’ll be waiting until the fall and that’s just not going to be possible from an economic, social, or public health standpoint,” he said. “There are public health costs to keeping things shut down — people aren’t seeking routine care; vaccination rates are down.”
He said the hope is the summer will be something of a “backstop” in the fight against the virus but it’s unclear whether that will be the case.
Dr. Gottlieb is one of about 200 business leaders and experts the White House recently announced will work the administration on charting a path forward.
He is also advising Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on coronavirus response issues.