Dr. Scott Gottlieb urges Covid stimulus, sacrifices: 'This may be the last time we have to do it'


Dr. Scott Gottlieb on Wednesday urged Americans to take steps to prevent coronavirus deaths, suggesting it could be the final time an aggressive pandemic response is needed in the U.S.

The former FDA chief in the Trump administration also called on Washington to step in and provide more economic stimulus.

“This may be the last time we have to do it, so we really should do what we can to try to preserve life over the next two or three months, recognizing that there’s really a better future ahead of us, with respect at least to Covid-19 in 2021,” Gottlieb said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Capitol Hill and the White House have been deadlocked for months over another round of fiscal support for the U.S. economy, after many of the key programs from earlier stimulus legislation expired at the end of July.

Gottlieb said that passing an additional relief bill is critical to help keep businesses afloat, particularly those that state and local governments order to close in the coming months such as bars and restaurants.

“We need to think about what temporary sacrifices we’re willing to make, including economically, with Congress stepping in for another round of PPP,” Gottlieb said, referring to the Paycheck Protection Program, a small business loan offering created in the March coronavirus relief bill.

Gottlieb said that optimistic developments around Covid-19 vaccines are why “we see the light at the end of the tunnel” of a health crisis that killed at least 248,707 people in the United States this year. More than 11.3 million people in the U.S. have been infected.

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech announced Wednesday morning that final data show their Covid-19 vaccine was 95% effective in preventing the disease. Pfizer said it intends to apply for emergency use authorization from the FDA “within days.”

Gottlieb, a member of Pfizer’s board, also touted the efficacy of Moderna‘s coronavirus vaccine, which preliminary data suggested was more than 94% effective. The results from both vaccines are “stunning,” he said. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology. It’s a new approach to vaccines that uses genetic material to provoke an immune response.

“These vaccines could effectively end the .. U.S. epidemic in 2021 as we more widely deploy them. … We just have a hard two or three months to get through,” Gottlieb said, while noting the global roll out of the vaccines could be more challenging.

Gottlieb’s comments come as the U.S. experiences an intensifying Covid-19 outbreak. New daily coronavirus cases were at an all-time high of 157,318, based on a seven-day average, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Hospitalizations also were rising in 47 states and Washington D.C, according to CNBC’s analysis of data from the COVID Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic. On Tuesday alone, the group reported 1,565 deaths from Covid-19 in the U.S., and a record 76,823 hospitalizations.

— CNBC’s Nate Rattner contributed to this report.

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus and biotech company Illumina. Gottlieb also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings′ and Royal Caribbean‘s “Healthy Sail Panel.” 

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