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Ex-FDA boss: US should ‘lean more aggressively forward’ to lift COVID restrictions

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The former head of the Food and Drug Administration said the US should “lean more aggressively forward” into lifting COVID-19 restrictions — adding that he believes the trend of declining cases is “locked in at this point” and he doesn’t anticipate another surge.

“I think oftentimes a mistake we make is that we’re quicker to implement these precautions than we are to lift them because we’re worried that once we lift them, we won’t be able to reimplement them,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“I think we need to lean more aggressively forward and look at ways to try to relax some of the provisions that don’t really make as much sense anymore.”

Gottlieb said officials should look the “hardest” at restrictions on outdoor activities.

“I think we should be thinking about lifting mask ordinances outside. I think we should be thinking about lifting limits on gatherings outside and trying to encourage people to go outside now that the weather is warming, take more activities outside in the face of declining risk overall,” he said.

Gottlieb said the US doesn’t need to be as concerned this time around that when “we take out foot off the brake, things are going to surge again.”

“I think that these declines we’re seeing are really locked in at this point,” Gottlieb said, noting that this comes despite contagious variants such as B117 becoming dominant.

“People, by and large, are engaging in a lot of activity. B117 is epidemic across the country and we’re still not seeing big surges. And that’s a good indication,” he continued.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb (R), commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), arrives for a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing concerning federal efforts to combat the opioid crisis
Dr. Scott Gottlieb says one area that should be closely examined for looser restrictions is outdoor activities.
Getty Images

Though states have reopened before only to see surges, Gottlieb said the situation is different now due to more of the population having immunity from vaccines and prior infections.

“Right now, the declines that we’re seeing, we can take to the bank,” he said.

“I think we could feel more assured because they’re being driven by vaccinations and greater levels of population-wide immunity, not just from vaccination, but also from prior infection. There’s been a lot of Americans who’ve had this infection and have a level of immunity from their prior disease.”

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