Here's How Likely It Is You Have COVID Right Now, Former FDA Chief Says

A former FDA commissioner says COVID case numbers in the country may be higher than reported.

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Coronavirus has infected more than 3 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, not everyone knows that they have COVID-19, because they may not experience symptoms—and therefore, might never get tested. So, how likely are you to actually have the coronavirus, even if you don't know it? One expert is suggesting that as many as 1 in 150 people in the country could be infected right now.

During an interview with CNBC on July 10, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said there is "so much infection around the country" that he believes is being undercounted.

"We must have well over 700,000 infections a day, even though we're only diagnosing about 60,000," Gottlieb said. "Before, when we had come down, and we were sort of burning around 20,000 diagnosed infections a day, the conventional wisdom was the prevalence was 1 in 200 people. So, now, it must be higher than that." That accounts for his current estimate of around 1 case for every 150 people.

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The lack of national unity is much to blame for the surging cases, Gottlieb said. He doesn't think the country will adopt a unified plan at this point, which will in turn make it harder to contain the new surges—and this will be especially challenging for the Northeastern states that have already brought their infection levels down. Referencing the 14-day quarantines that states like New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have implemented on travelers from hotspot states in the South, he called them "a patchwork of solutions" that he believes will progressively get more heavily and aggressively enforced.

Green ribbon barrier inside an airport with the warning of travel restrictions due to the spread of the dangerous Coronavirus
iStock

"Our borders are fairly porous," Gottlieb said. "This is going to be a difficult task for the states that want to try to preserve the gains they made, paying a pretty big sacrifice to crush the virus, to have it not be reimported back into those states in meaningful numbers and see epidemics heading into the fall."

Earlier, on June 29, Gottlieb told CNBC that he estimates that nearly half the population will have the coronavirus by the end of the year. He said that the virus in the South is spreading faster than it can be contained, with "tens of thousands of infections" circulating in southern communities.

However, one potential positive of half the population being infected is that Gottlieb believes fweer people will need to get vaccinated, as a result. Expecting a vaccine by early 2021, he believes it won't be necessary "to vaccinate the entire population, because a lot of people will have already had this by the time we get to a vaccination." And for more on where COVID is spreading, The 2 States Where Coronavirus Is Spreading Fastest Will Surprise You.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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