The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must adjust their Covid recommendations more quickly as new scientific knowledge emerges, Dr. Scott Gottlieb CNBC said on Monday, adding the agency must do so with more transparency.
“These guidelines have more economic implications than regulation,” said the former commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration “Squawk Box.”
Gottlieb’s comments came after the CDC on Friday changed its guidelines on social distancing in schools, not society in general. The Public Health Authority said that with universal masking, most students can sit 3 feet apart instead of the previous 6 foot protocol. The CDC also continued to recommend a separation of at least 6 feet between adults in schools and between adults and students.
In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, Gottlieb pushed The CDC is more open to the science behind its guidelines, writing that the “exact basis for their initial view of staying 6 feet apart” remains unclear. In the Journal and on CNBC, he said first recommendations and precautions Early last year they were based on the novel coronavirus, which spread like seasonal influenza.
“It was sensible to do this because we didn’t know much about the coronavirus and therefore assumed that it will behave like the flu. It didn’t behave like the flu,” Gottlieb said in “Squawk Box” and claimed it crucially led health officials to “both overestimate and underestimate this virus”.
“It’s not so much about: Were we wrong? We were wrong in a certain way. But: Have we learned quickly enough and adjusted our recommendations and guidelines quickly enough? And the answer is no,” he said to Gottlieb, who did FDA headed the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019.
In a statement to CNBC, a CDC spokesman said that “during the first year of the pandemic, there were concerns about some of the CDC’s guidelines.” The spokesman, however, said the agency’s new director under the president Joe Biden, DR. Rochelle Walensky, is “committed to restoring scientific credibility and public confidence in the Agency” a review of the agency’s Covid guidelines to ensure that they reflect the latest scientific knowledge.
Gottlieb said on CNBC that health officials “have overestimated the benefits of physical distancing because the flu spreads primarily through droplet transmission, and we know droplets don’t spread more than six feet.” On the other hand, he said, “We underestimated the role of air quality and quality masks because we underestimated that aerosol transmission spreads it.”
At first it had was some skepticism from doctors on whether it would be effective to advise Americans to wear face covering – especially something homemade like a scarf or headscarf. At the beginning of April last year, however, the CDC started recommending people to wear them in public, especially in environments like grocery stores where social distancing was more difficult to maintain.
There is little debate in public health these days about the importance of wearing face masks, and some experts like the White House Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anthony Fauci, have even started recommending it Wearing two masks is likely more effective.
The CDC confirmed the spread of coronaviruses back in October can occur through particles in the airthat “linger in the air” for minutes to hours and end up infecting people more than 6 feet apart.
On the CDC website titled “How COVID-19 Spreads,” the health department says “most frequently” It does this through close contact between people within 6 feet.
“There is evidence that, under certain conditions, people with COVID-19 appear to have infected others who were more than three feet away,” adds the CDC. “These transmissions took place in closed rooms with insufficient ventilation. Sometimes the infected person breathed heavily, for example when singing or exercising.”
Some of the areas where Covid risks were initially overestimated also included contaminated surfaces, Gottlieb told CNBC. The CDC in May 2020 – about two months after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic – Updated its website to emphasize that the virus did not spread easily from a person touching a contaminated surface; according to NBC News.
Gottlieb acknowledged that in the early stages of a health crisis like the Covid pandemic, there may be a lack of quality information to use as a basis for guidelines.
“When the CDC makes recommendations, there are different levels of evidence and different levels of security behind those recommendations,” he said. “If the agency is unsure or suggests a recommendation on less specific science, they should be really transparent about it so we can interpret how seriously we want to take it, but they usually don’t.”
The CDC spokesman told CNBC that “key findings” have already been implemented following the agency’s latest review, including “reviewing key guidelines for possible updates at least every three months” and “improving clarity and usability”.
DR. Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the boards of directors of Pfizer, Genetic Testing Startup Tempus, Healthcare Technology Company Aetion, and Biotech Company Illumina. He also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings‘ and royal caribbean‘s “Healthy Sail Panel.