Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday he expected more Americans to stop wearing face covers in the coming weeks to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
“Nobody will wear masks until June. I think the spread is until June [of Covid] will be sufficiently low in this country[and[wejustwon’tworryaboutit”saidtheformercommissionerFoodandDrugAdministrationonCNBC’s”SquawkBox”[and[we’rejustnotgoingtobeconcernedaboutit”theformerFoodandDrugAdministrationcommissionersaidonCNBC’s””[und[wirwerdenunsdarübereinfachkeineSorgenmachen”sagtederehemaligeKommissarderFoodandDrugAdministrationaufCNBCs”SquawkBox”[and[we’rejustnotgoingtobeconcernedaboutit”theformerFoodandDrugAdministrationcommissionersaidonCNBC’s”SquawkBox”
Gottlieb’s comments came during a back-and-forth over how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated mask guidelines will affect young children who are not yet eligible for a Covid vaccine. Children ages 12-15 qualified for the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine last week.
While fully vaccinated, Gottlieb said he wore a mask that weekend when he was shopping with his young children. Gottlieb said he no longer feels at risk of getting Covid but has no problem wearing a mask when he’s with them for now.
“What’s the downside to keeping it going?” he said. “I would probably keep a mask with my children longer. Another week or two,” added Gottlieb, who now serves on Pfizer’s board of directors.
On Thursday, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people are no longer required to wear face covering or maintain a social distance of 6 feet from other people in most indoor and outdoor areas. According to a federal rule, masks are still required on airplanes and public transportation.
States and municipalities are still able to set their own guidelines for face coverings. For example, New Jersey intends to maintain internal mask requirements. In contrast, states like North Carolina and Ohio have relaxed their mask rules for fully vaccinated people under CDC guidelines.
Large retailers like Walmart, Costco, Target, and Starbucks have also lowered facial coverage requirements for fully vaccinated customers, except in places where local regulations still require it.
The CDC has defended its new recommendations despite some confusion and concern. Critics fear that it will encourage unvaccinated people to go without a mask.
“People who go maskless now would go maskless anyway if those mandates are lifted and still choose not to be vaccinated,” said Gottlieb, who headed the FDA in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019.
Gottlieb reiterated his belief that the CDC’s updated guidelines will encourage at least some vaccine reluctant Americans to take Covid shots. “I don’t think it will be 10%, but I think we could take in another 2% to 5% of the people,” he predicted.
As of Sunday, 47% of the US population had received at least one dose of Covid vaccine, while 37% were fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
New coronavirus infections in the US continue to decline, which is why Gottlieb believes the CDC mask tour is appropriate.
The seven-day average of new daily coronavirus cases is 33,200, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. That’s 19% less than a week ago, which has continued a sharp decline since mid-April. At this point in time, the daily average of new cases was over 71,000.
“I think the prevalence is really falling across the country, and we will get to a point where there are very few infections and the individual risk for a person is low when you do it with an otherwise immunocompetent person have to do, “said Gottlieb.
At the same time, Gottlieb said that people who wear a mask, even when it is not required, should not be ridiculed. For example, someone who is vaccinated but already has a condition may still wear a mask in certain higher-risk indoor spaces, he said.
“I think it should be encouraged. I think it should be supported. People have to make individual decisions about their risk,” said Gottlieb.
Disclosure: 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 Illumina biotech. He is also co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean.