Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Wednesday that he believes U.S. colleges could welcome students to campus in the fall, even as the coronavirus brings uncertainty about upcoming academic year.
“I think we’ll be in a position where we’re gonna give a try at opening schools, opening residential college campuses in the fall because I’m hopeful that coming off of July and August, we’re going to see some declines in cases in the summer,” the former FDA commissioner said on “Squawk Box.” “I think there will be a seasonal affect here.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, on Tuesday warned that colleges and universities should not bank on a vaccine or effective therapeutics for Covid-19 being available by the fall. “The idea of having treatments available, or a vaccine, to facilitate the reentry of students into the fall term would be something of a bit of a bridge too far,” Fauci said at a Senate hearing.
Higher education institutions across the U.S. shifted this spring from in-person classes to online instruction as the threat of the coronavirus outbreak grew. But there is now significant focus on how — or whether — in-person classes can safely resume in the coming months.
University leaders across the U.S. have previously told CNBC that testing capacity and robust contact tracing plans will be critical in bringing students back to campus. Even then, many have cautioned that large, in-person lectures are unlikely to be part of the academic plan.
On Tuesday, the 23-campus California State University System announced most classes for the upcoming fall semester will be held online, with some exceptions for research labs.
US is ‘not in great shape’ but there are hopeful signs, Gottlieb says
Gottlieb has warned in recent days that coronavirus cases will rise as states across the country move to relax restrictions on businesses. He said Wednesday the U.S. is “not in great shape” and continues to have a strong backdrop of infection. But he said the two-week national data that shows “some flattening” in new cases.
“There are some hopeful signs. Now that said, as we reopen, cases are going to go up and hospitalizations will go up. The question is, how much?” said Gottlieb, a CNBC contributor who sits on the boards of Pfizer and biotech company Illumina.
“But if you look at states like Florida, and even Georgia to some extent, they reopened and we haven’t seen the sharp uptick in cases. We’ve seen a little bump,” he added. “You can make an optimistic case here, as well as a pessimistic one. I would choose to make an optimistic one.”