Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb on Sunday said the United States “prepared for the wrong threat” ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview on CBS News’ “Face The Nation,” Gottlieb said “we had this sort of illusion that we had prepared for a pandemic.”
“But they were ill-suited to the crisis we faced,” he said of those preparations. “And even the ones that were sort of appropriately measured to what we were facing weren’t ready…..I think we didn’t really have the foresight to understand that a virus could threaten us in this way. We had planned for a pandemic flu.”
“We prepared for the wrong threat,” he asserted. “But even if we had prepared for the right threat, the preparations still weren’t adequate.”
Gottlieb lamented Americans seem to have lost faith in public health officials.
“I think that there’s a lot of people around the country who feel that the advice they got from public health officials wasn’t precise, changed, wasn’t formulated in a way where it was sort of immutable, wasn’t carefully explained, wasn’t propagated in a way that it could be assimilated into people’s lives,” he said.
“And things changed,” he added, “so people were confused by it and lost confidence in it. And I think that there’s going to be part of the dialogue we have around how do we prepare better for the next pandemic.”
According to Gottlieb, there needs to be a discussion of what role public health agencies and public health officials play, “and how much should policymakers really be overseeing what they’re doing in the setting of a crisis.”
“That’s going to be the first bridge we need to cross as we step into this,” he said.
Gottlieb both faulted and defended the Centers for Disease Control for its response to the pandemic.
“We needed an all-of-the-above approach,” he said. “We needed to get the public health labs stood up. We needed to simultaneously get the clinical labs stood up, labs inside hospitals. And we needed to get private manufacturers developing test kits that can go in every commercial lab around the country. That needed to happen in January. Certainly by the end of January .”
“But CDC had the ball,” he said. “CDC was following their standard blueprint. Their blueprint could keep up with a slow moving outbreak” and not the fast-spreading coronavirus.
Yet Gottlieb said, “in fairness to CDC, there were a lot of policymakers who assumed that they would be able to complete this mission and wrongly assumed what their capabilities were.”
“CDC should have raised their hand and said, we really don’t have this,” he said, adding: “I think it’s very difficult for an agency to have this self-awareness that they don’t have the capacity to respond the way they’re being asked.
Gottlieb also said we may never know the origins of COVID- 19.
“We’re not going to answer this question absent one or two things happening,” he said. “Either we find the intermediate host, the animal that spread COVID, or there’s a whistleblower inside China, or someone close to this, who knows that this came out of a lab, comes forward, defects, goes overseas, or we intercept some communication that we shouldn’t have had access to.”
“Absent something like that, we’re not going to be able to answer this question,” he continued. “|This is going to be a battle of competing narratives. I think over time, the side of the ledger that — that says that this might have come out of a lab has grown more robust and the side of the ledger that says this came out of a natural species has not really moved.”
He added the Chinese, just because they’re involved in “an exhaustive search” haven’t proved they know it didn’t come out of a lab.
“I think that they would be looking for it, even if they knew it came out of a lab,” he asserted.