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US probably undercounting Covid-19 infections: Former FDA commissioner

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A transit passenger wears a face mask as they wait to board the Metro C Line light rail train during rush hour traffic in Los Angeles, California on July 16, 2021. / AFP / Patrick T. FALLON

The United States is “probably undercounting” Covid-19 infections as healthier people and the youths refuse to take tests for the coronavirus, says a former FDA commissioner.

Scott Gottlieb made the comments on CBS as the Delta variant of Covid-19 was fast spreading across the country to become to dominant coronavirus variant.

“I think at this point we're probably undercounting how many infections there are in the states right now because to the extent that a lot of the infections are occurring in younger and healthier people who might be getting mild illness, they're ... probably not presenting to get tested,” he said. “And to extent that there are some breakthrough cases, either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases in those who've been vaccinated, they're not presenting to get tested because if you've been vaccinated don't think that you have the coronavirus even if you develop a mild illness, and we're not doing a lot of routine screening right now unless you work for the New York Yankees, you're not getting tested on a regular basis.”

The number of Covid-19 infections was, meanwhile, rising in certain US states. Arizona officials reported more than 1,000 new cases for a fourth straight day on Saturday.

Cara Christ, the director of Arizona’s Department of Health Services, urged the state’s citizens to get vaccinated in a statement last week.

“With at least 50% of all Arizonans having received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, there’s less chance for a major surge in cases or significant strain on the healthcare system and intensive care units,” Christ said. “But we’ve reached the point where severe cases and deaths from Covid-19 are almost entirely preventable.”

The more contiguous and deadly delta variant has created a new wave of infections across the United States, where the majority of people have reportedly been vaccinated.

The former commissioner at US Food and Drug Administration further warned that the variant, which developed in India, “could be far more advanced than what we’re detecting right now.”

“At the peak of the epidemic in the wintertime we were probably turning over 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 infections. In the summer wave of last summer we were probably picking up more like 1 in 10 infections. We might be picking up something on the order of 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 infections right now because more of those infections are occurring in people who either won't present for testing or they're mild infections and they're self-limiting… So the people who tend to be getting tested right now are people who are getting very sick or people who are developing telltale symptoms of Covid like loss of taste or smell, and that's only about 15 or 20 percent of people who have become infected.”


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