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Return to normal by April? It’s unlikely, former FDA chief says

Dr. Scott Gottlieb recently revealed when we’re likely to return to normal

In this Feb. 7, 2021, file photo, two people enter a New York City vaccine hub during a snowstorm in New York. Executives from the major COVID-19 vaccine producers are set Tuesday, Feb. 23, to answer questions from Congress about expanding the supply of shots needed to curb the pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans.
In this Feb. 7, 2021, file photo, two people enter a New York City vaccine hub during a snowstorm in New York. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration chief, recently told CNBC he doesn’t think the U.S. could reach “herd immunity” — where enough of the population is immune to a virus — by April.
Kathy Willens, Associated Press

When can we return to normal? There are a lot of answers out there. But the optimistic answer — spring or summer 2021 — might be the right direction, Dr. Scott Gottlieb recently told CNBC.

What’s going on?

Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration chief, told CNBC he doesn’t think the U.S. could reach “herd immunity” — where enough of the population is immune to a virus, allowing the population to return to normal — by April.

  • “I think if there’s going to be a normal time over the next 12 months, it’s likely to be this spring and summer,” he told CNBC.

Some theories have suggested April might be when there’s enough immunity. Gottlieb disagreed with that timeline.

  • “I think the sentiment is right,” he told CNBC.
  • “I do think that as we get into the warm weather, as we vaccinate more of the population and in view of the fact that at least one-third of Americans have had this, I do think that infection levels are going to come down dramatically over the course of the spring and summer,” Gottlieb said.

Quick numbers

Data from Johns Hopkins University shows that as of Monday the U.S. has seen a 29% decline in new COVID-19 cases since last week, according to CNN. That is the steepest drop in COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in spring 2020, CNN reports.

Context

Gottlieb’s comments about April come after Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, wrote for The Wall Street Journal over the weekend that the United States would reach herd immunity by April.

  • Makary wrote that natural immunity, the COVID-19 vaccine distribution and asymptomatic cases could help Americans return to normal a lot sooner than expected. In fact, he said April was the likely month for something of a return to normal, as I wrote for the Deseret News.
  • He wrote for The Wall Street Journal: “There is reason to think the country is racing toward an extremely low level of infection. As more people have been infected, most of whom have mild or no symptoms, there are fewer Americans left to be infected. At the current trajectory, I expect COVID will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life.”

Meanwhile ...

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the top infectious disease experts in the United States, told CNN over the weekend that a “return to normal” wouldn’t likely happen until 2022.

  • Fauci told CNN it is “possible” Americans will need to wear masks in 2022 to protect themselves from COVID-19. He said the U.S. will hit “a significant degree of normality” by the end of 2021.