Dr. Scott Gottlieb: "I cannot eat inside a restaurant" as a result of the chance of Covid is simply too excessive
Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday that he avoided dining indoors due to safety concerns during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Personally, I have gone to a lot of properly masked big box stores and wear a high-quality mask when going out. I will not eat inside a restaurant," said Gottlieb on "Squawk Box". "I've been eating outside since the summer and wouldn't eat inside a restaurant. I think the risk is too high to be in a confined space without a mask while other people are eating in the same place."
Gottlieb answered a question from CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin, who asked if shopping in a store where customers and employees are masked poses the same risk of coronavirus transmission as eating in an indoor restaurant, even if capacity constraints are in place . Sorkin's investigation followed his heated debate Friday with CNBC Bond maven Rick Santelli on the same subject.
Gottlieb, a doctor who previously served as the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under President Donald Trump, believes eating indoors is definitely riskier than shopping in a large retail store. "I think that's difficult to discuss," said Gottlieb.
While Gottlieb acknowledged that it is possible that some restaurants have "tweaked" their facilities to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission, he said that there are certain characteristics that remain inherent in indoor dining. "People who eat inside talk loudly in many cases, and again they don’t wear a mask. They’re in a small space. I think there’s no question that poses a higher risk,” he said.
Gottlieb's comments come because U.S. state and local officials are imposing another round of public health restrictions in response to rising coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Parts of California, for example, are now at home after the available intensive care unit capacity fell below 15%.
The 7-day average of new coronavirus cases in the country is 196,233, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. According to CNBC's analysis of data from the COVID Tracking Project run by The Atlantic Magazine, hospital stays for Covid-19 patients are increasing by an average of seven days in 33 states and Washington, DC. In total, more than 101,000 people with Covid-19 are currently in hospital.
The outbreak of the nation will continue to intensify, warned Gottlieb.
"We need to understand that what we are seeing will get progressively worse over the next four to six weeks. Infections will continue to increase for at least four weeks, and deaths and hospitalizations will increase." likely to continue growing for the next six weeks, "Gottlieb said, forecasting that around 150,000 to 175,000 Covid-19 patients could be hospitalized at the same time in the nation.
Those values would put an extreme strain on the nation's health system, he said. "There are less than a million hospital beds in this country. So if you are talking about 175,000 hospital inmates, we are way beyond the overflow."
Gottlieb said the steps governments have taken over the next two weeks may still change the trajectory of this recent surge in Covid-19. "Whatever we do over the next two weeks will really affect how bad it gets. We'll be locked up at that point," he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday sent a strong call for people to wear masks, stay home if possible, and maintain social distance to slow the spread of the virus.
– CNBC's Nate Rattner contributed to this report.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the boards of directors of Pfizer, the genetic testing startup Tempus, and the biotech company Illumina. Gottlieb is also co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean's Healthy Sail Panel.