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Former FDA commissioner warns of ‘rapid acceleration’ of coronavirus cases

Nurse Yeonis Jean Jacques gave a coronavirus test to a boy in Lawrence on Tuesday.
Nurse Yeonis Jean Jacques gave a coronavirus test to a boy in Lawrence on Tuesday.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

A former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration is warning that coronavirus cases nationally are about to rise rapidly.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb issued the warning Monday night on CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith,” saying the country was about a week away from seeing a "rapid acceleration” in cases.

“We’re going to see accelerating cases heading into the next four to six weeks, probably into the end of the year right now. It’s going to be a difficult fall and winter. I think we’re about two or three weeks behind Europe, so we’re about a week away from starting to enter a period where we’re going to see a rapid acceleration in cases. I think November and December are going to be tough months," he said.

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He warned that “there really is no backstop,” suggesting that the summer might have helped tamp down the virus, but that he expected the winter to bring the virus back at a time when there is still no cure.

"You know, this summer was a backstop of sorts to the spring surge. And we have no therapeutic backstop and this season, the fall and winter season, is when this coronavirus is going to want to spread,” he said.

Gottlieb joined a chorus of experts, including researchers from Harvard and the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who have been warning of rising cases and difficult months ahead.

A third surge of coronavirus cases has firmly taken hold in the United States. The nation is averaging 59,000 new cases a day, the most since the beginning of August, and the country is on pace to record its most new daily cases of the entire pandemic in the coming days, The New York Times reports.

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Models of the pandemic’s progress collected by a University of Massachusetts lab found some predicting a sharp increase in cases in coming days and some predicting a sharp decrease. A four-week ensemble model created by the lab foresees cases essentially stabilizing in the next four weeks.

But Nicholas Reich, the professor who oversees the lab, which provides its results to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an e-mail that the “models as a whole (and that includes our ensemble) seem to have been unable to keep pace with the recent increases" and he believed “cases will continue to be a bit above the forecasts.”

The much-cited University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model, updated last week, foresees a steady rise in the number of confirmed plus estimated cases until the end of the year, when the number will exceed the level of the spring surge.

Coronavirus deaths lag behind reports of infections. Experts believe the death toll will also rise in coming months. The pandemic has killed more than 220,000 people so far.

Material from The New York Times was used in this report.


Martin finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.