Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Wednesday that if the current trends continued, the United States could suffer around 300,000 deaths from the corona virus by the end of the year. That would be more than double the current sum.
"At the moment we have almost 1,000 victims per day, so if we don't change this trajectory, you can calculate and see where we are at the end of the year," said Gottlieb on "Squawk Box".
In the United States, there are at least 142,000 deaths related to Covid-19, the largest part of a country, according to Johns Hopkins University. America's 43.40 deaths per 100,000 people are the tenth highest in the world. There are a total of 3.9 million infections in the United States.
Daily coronavirus deaths in the United States are still well below the levels seen at the start of the pandemic, when more than 2,000 new deaths were recorded on some days in April. But after increasing cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks, deaths have increased in certain parts of the country. According to the Covid Tracking Project, the death toll on Tuesday was over 1,000 for the first time since May 29.
Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under President Donald Trump, said that mortality rates in the United States are likely to have dropped as doctors learn to better treat the novel virus. He said he had spoken to doctors treating Covid 19 patients who said "it could have been cut in half".
The mortality rate from total confirmed cases was around 3.6% on Wednesday. However, as the Wall Street Journal reports, the actual mortality rate can only be a fraction of this, considering that disease control and prevention centers believe that Covid 19 cases can be six to 24 times higher than the confirmed number.
While Gottlieb said for months that the actual case is likely to be much higher, he told CNBC on Wednesday: "The problem is that we are bringing a lot of patients to the hospital." He added, "Even if we end up getting more life in the hospital, which we do, if we end up bringing a lot more patients to the hospital, you will end up having many victims of this virus, unfortunately." . "
Gottlieb's comments came on Wednesday, a day after Trump warned that the nation's outbreak of Covid-19 would likely "get worse before it gets better". The President, who with few exceptions avoided wearing masks in public during the pandemic, also urged Americans to wear face coverings to limit the spread of the virus.
A virus model, once quoted by the White House, is currently predicting that more than 220,000 people in the United States could die from Covid-19 by November 1. However, the model predicts a lower death rate by that date – just over 183,000 – if the US had a universal mask.
Gottlieb also said he believes that coronavirus deaths in the U.S. could fall in the fall as more therapeutics to treat the virus come on the market, such as the drug from Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, which is being developed in collaboration with Merck.
"Because of its side effect profile, it is likely to be a drug for hospital use, but in early studies it looks like it may have activity against the coronavirus," he said. "So there are promising therapeutics on the horizon, and this only underlines the fact that we will improve mortality in the hospital with this virus in the fall and winter."
Many companies, including Merck, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, are working on possible coronavirus vaccines with the hope that one will work and can be approved early next year.
Gottlieb stressed that in the meantime, the United States would ultimately have to control the transmission of the coronavirus, saying, "There are ways to keep this under control." He added: "Some states have chosen not to do this, and so it is spreading further."
"We have the specter of parts of this country where the local school authorities decide to close schools, but the bars and restaurants are still open," said Gottlieb. "We have to make a decision about what is important to us and what we want to sacrifice now until we get to the other side."
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the boards of directors of Pfizer, the start-up company for genetic testing Tempus and the biotech company Illumina.
Correction: In an earlier version of this article, the relationship between Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck was incorrectly stated. The two companies are working together to develop the potential antiviral Covid-19.