Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday that the U.S. still needs to expand and improve its coronavirus testing and contact tracing to get its epidemic under control – even if it will never be able to conduct an operation as rigorous as China.
"We don't need a surveillance status to be able to conduct better tests and tracings, and we could much better ask for collective action so that people can wear masks more routinely," Gottlieb said on the Squawk Box.
The former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration pointed to recent developments in the east Chinese city of Qingdao, where nine million people live. After 12 cases have been reported, the city is now planning to test all residents over the next five days, according to the BBC.
"So you will manage to eradicate this outbreak," said Gottlieb, who served in the Trump administration from May 2017 to April 2019. "We could never do that here. First, we don't have the capacity." it, and if we did we'd never get anywhere near compliance. "
Gottlieb previously lamented the lack of coronavirus testing in the US as the nation's outbreak began to grow, leading to significant uncertainty about where the virus actually spread in March and April. That made widespread home orders the only way to slow down the transfer, he claimed.
Testing capacity in the US for high-precision laboratory-based PCR testing has expanded despite problems with delayed results. In addition, new rapid tests for the virus are emerging that are enhancing the public health response.
The U.S. has done an average of 907,000 new coronavirus tests per day over the past 30 days. This comes from a CNBC analysis of data from the Covid Tracking Project, an independent volunteer organization launched by journalists at The Atlantic. In April, when much of the nation was under lockdown, the daily average of new coronavirus tests was 177,400.
The increase in testing may explain some of the growth in new daily U.S. coronavirus cases, which averaged 51,000 over the past seven days, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
Still stressing the need for continual improvement in the nation's response, Gottlieb told CNBC last week that "a raging epidemic is not inevitable". He added, "The whole of the Pacific Rim has fewer than 1,000 infections a day," referring to countries like China, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea and Australia.
On Monday, Gottlieb admitted that there are differences between what can be done in the US and an authoritarian country like China, where the coronavirus first emerged late last year. "They test and pursue very aggressively, probably more aggressively than us because we are just not going to give up certain freedoms," he said.
For example, in China, government cameras have been installed on people's doors under a 14-day quarantine to ensure they don't leave their homes, CNBC reported in March. Gottlieb also noted that other Asian countries have electronic tracking to ensure people are tested. "I'm not saying we have to go that far, but we are far from achieving any level of compliance with testing and tracking."