Scott Gottlieb becomes key voice warning Trump, GOP on coronavirus

Source: The Hill | April 5, 2020 | Morgan Chalfant

Scott Gottlieb has seen his national profile grow amid the coronavirus outbreak as the former FDA commissioner becomes a leading voice from outside the administration on how to tackle the worst health epidemic the country may ever have faced. 

Gottlieb, a 47-year-old physician, has become a regular presence on cable news shows and his Twitter account is widely followed by journalists, health policy experts and politicians. 

He’s maintained a line to the White House throughout the pandemic, and although his early warnings went unheeded, he hasn’t bludgeoned the administration with criticism but has offered sharp words for officials and states when he has disagreed with their policies. 

It’s all helped him become a trusted figure amid the crisis by people on both sides of the aisle.

He’s been informally advising the White House coronavirus task force, supplying Trump with a recent “roadmap” that he and other experts penned to shape how the federal government and states can start to return safely to normal life. 

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Gottlieb, a physician and cancer survivor, penned an op-ed on Jan. 27 calling on the U.S. to prepare for a domestic outbreak of the novel coronavirus and sounding the alarm on the need for widespread screening and point-of-care tests. 

“Global spread appears inevitable. So too are the emergence of outbreaks in the U.S., even if a widespread American epidemic can still be averted. When pockets of the outbreak arrive on our shores, we shouldn’t have undue panic. But we need to be ready,” Gottlieb wrote in CNBC. Days later, Gottlieb warned COVID-19 was likely to be a pandemic, about a month before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it such.

He has been vocal since, on Twitter and in news interviews, on occasion capturing the attention of Trump, who retweeted Gottlieb on March 12 warning of “two hard months” ahead and advocating for physical distancing in communities. Trump also shared tweets from Gottlieb on Sunday saying cases appeared to be slowing in some places due to social distancing but pointing to areas of concern, including Miami and other parts of Florida, which Gottlieb said were becoming a “major epicenter” of COVID-19.

In early March, Gottlieb attended a weekly meeting of Republicans at the invitation of Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the third-ranking House GOP leader, according to Paul Kane of The Washington Post.

At the meeting, Kane wrote that Gottlieb delivered a blunt warning to the room that was dismissed as “alarmist” by some who attended. Those Republicans took issue with the recommendations he made for social distancing and compared the virus to the seasonal flu, provoking a forceful response from Gottlieb, who warned they had a moral duty to save lives.

Last week, Gottlieb said in an appearance on CNBC that the success of the White House’s social distancing measures in keeping the death toll down would depend on the decisions of “populist” states like Texas and Florida that hadn’t yet taken aggressive enough action. 

“If they don’t get more aggressive, we could be on the cusp of some of those bad outcomes,” Gottlieb said. Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has since issued a stay-at-home order, after previously resisting doing so.

Gottlieb is among a handful of former Trump administration officials who have sounded the alarm over the coronavirus outbreak. 

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