Ex-FDA Head Scott Gottlieb Releases New Plan For Reopening Economy

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Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
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Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb detailed a new plan for reopening the economy this week, urging Congress to ramp up income protection and encourage more self-isolation.

Gottlieb, who left the Trump administration in 2019, co-signed the letter with more than a dozen other medical officials, and its recommendations largely line up with messaging coming out of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Critical to Gottlieb’s plan is increased funding for contact tracing programs, which he says are essential for preventing resurgent outbreaks. The entirety of the plan would cost the U.S. $46.5 billion. (RELATED: ‘China Was Not Truthful’: Ex-FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb Explains How Beijing Misled The World About Coronavirus)

“To begin to safely ease at-home measures, it is of paramount importance to be able to provide broad, timely testing for COVID-19; diagnose COVID-19 positive cases; enable infected individuals to self-isolate at home or voluntarily in other facilities; trace and alert those who have been exposed to an infected individual; and enable those exposed contacts to voluntarily self-isolate for 14 days after their last exposure to the infected person,” the letter reads.

U.S. Food and Drug Commissioner Gottlieb attends interview at Reuters HQ in New York

U.S. Food and Drug Commissioner Gottlieb attends interview at Reuters HQ in New York. (Reuters)

The increased tracing program would cost roughly $12 million, according to the plan’s estimates, and it would recommend that anyone who comes in contact with an infected person self-isolate for at least 14 days. For those who cannot safely self-isolate in their homes, Gottlieb’s plan recommends the federal government or states lease out vacant hotels for people to self-isolate voluntarily. (RELATED: REPORT: Trump’s Push To Hurry Coronavirus Vaccine Is Called ‘Operation Warp Speed’)

“There is substantial evidence that providing a voluntary option to safely isolate will help to dramatically reduce spread of infection to one’s family and therefore the spread of infection overall,” the plan says. “We believe 14 percent of infected individuals and exposed contacts will need such an option. Hotels are largely sitting idle at present and can provide local options for such voluntary self-isolation sites.”

The assisted self-isolation portion of the plan is estimated to cost $4.5 billion, and the income protection that self-isolation makes necessary would cost $30 billion over the course of 18 months.

The plan’s announcement letter was addressed to Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, but none have confirmed whether the plan will be incorporated into additional coronavirus relief bills.

“We believe the direct impact of this investment, along with an adequate testing and containment infrastructure that links in health care providers and businesses, will have a significant economic impact, allowing Americans to get back to work safely and quickly, create employment, stabilize our healthcare system, and stimulate the hospitality sector,” the doctors said in the letter. “It is imperative that states and metropolitan areas are able to quickly begin and scale this important work, and we urge you to make this commitment as a part of the next stimulus legislation.”