Here's How Likely You Are to Catch COVID in the Next Month, Expert Says

The former commissioner of the FDA believes the coming weeks will see shocking numbers emerge.

With close to a straight month of reporting more than 100,000 coronavirus cases per day, the United States is currently experiencing the fall/winter surge that medical experts spent months warning us about. Now, experts are predicting that a post-Thanksgiving surge could send numbers into even worse territory as the year ends. In fact, some expect that close to one in every three people are likely to catch COVID in the next month, which is a grave concern as the U.S. is already suffering unprecedented surges.

During an on-air interview with CNBC's Squawk Box on Nov. 30, Scott Gottlieb, MD, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, predicted that the current bad situation would likely get much worse by the end of December. "We're going to probably have by the end of this year, 30 percent of the U.S. population infected," he warned.

While the prediction may be shocking, some experts also believe that the situation could be even worse in certain areas of the U.S. Read on to see what top medical experts believe the end of the year will look like, and for more on how to stay safe after your holiday celebration, check out This Is When You Should Get Tested for COVID After Thanksgiving.

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Two states could see infection rates climb to even 50 percent.

A older man in a blue short has his nose swabbed by a health care worker in full protective gear for a coronavirus test
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Some states may actually see worse outbreaks—especially where case numbers are already high. "You look at states like North Dakota and South Dakota, it's probably 30 percent, 35 percent. Maybe as high as 50 percent," Gottlieb said. And for insight to where things are the worst, check out This Is How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.

Actual numbers are likely much higher than what's being reported.

Two female doctors wearing full protective gear check on an older male patient in the ICU for coronavirus
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Gottlieb's assessment is even more harrowing because he previously clarified that the reported number of cases is most likely a fraction of the actual infection rate.

"We're probably, at best, diagnosing one in five cases right now, maybe a little bit less than that, so this is at least half a million cases a day, probably more in terms of actual numbers of infection," Gottlieb said in a CNBC interview  onNov. 6 when national cases were averaging around 121,000 per day. Now, data from Johns Hopkins University shows the national seven-day daily average close to 162,400 as of Nov. 30, CNBC reports. And for more regular COVID updates, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Other experts expressed concern with some cautious optimism.

Female doctor using thermometer to measure the temperature of senior man for Covid-19 testing at home.
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Gottlieb was no alone in expressing concern for the coming month. In an interview with NBC's Meet the Press on Nov. 29, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said that the next few weeks will likely see numbers continuing to skyrocket.

"What we expect, unfortunately, as we go for the next couple of weeks into December, is that we might see a surge superimposed on the surge we are already in," he said. But he did offer some hope, clarifying that "I don't want to frighten people, except to say it is not too late to do something about this." And for more from the NIAID director, check out Dr. Fauci Says You Should Expect These COVID Vaccine Side Effects.

Vaccines provide some reassurance that things will get better.

Asian male getting vaccinated against coronavirus
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Despite how bad the situation is likely to become in December, experts also expressed confidence in the forthcoming release of vaccines from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, which are said to have a 95 percent success rate.

"You combine a lot of infection around the country with vaccinating 20 percent of the population [and] you're getting to levels where this virus is not going to circulate as readily, once you get to those levels of prior immunity," Gottlieb told CNBC, adding "I do believe 2021 is going to be better. We have to get through the next two or three months, and so this is going to be, really, a temporary pain." And for more on how infectious the virus is, check out It Only Takes This Long to Get COVID in a Room With Someone Who Has It.

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Zachary Mack
Zachary covers beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He's the owner of Alphabet City Beer Co. in New York City and is a Certified Cicerone. Read more
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