Former FDA commish Gottlieb is bullhorning COVID-19 recovery. Who’s listening?

It’s been just about a year since Scott Gottlieb, MD, resigned as FDA commissioner, saying he wanted more time for his family. The COVID-19 crisis has drawn him back into the public eye. Could he become more influential now than ever?

Opinionated yet not ideological, Gottlieb is attracting bipartisan attention mostly for a document he lead-authored in March. But the paper, “National Coronavirus Response: A Road Map to Reopening,” published online by the American Enterprise Institute, was only the beginning.

Gottlieb has built off the momentum, writing op-eds, posting social-media commentary, opining on TV news and generally weighing in wherever he can on COVID and what comes next.

The Washington Post has taken notice. The newspaper of record for the nation’s capitol assigned three reporters to take a closer look at Gottlieb’s doings of late. Along the way they spoke with Trump administration staffers, Capitol Hill denizens and several unnamed sources who seem to know a thing or two.

“I think that people appreciate [Gottlieb’s] wisdom, it’s another pair of eyes on things,” a senior administration official tells the reporters on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile other administration insiders “grumble about Gottlieb’s television critiques, saying it is easier to knock the administration’s performance than to make things work,” add the reporters (Laurie McGinley, Josh Dawsey and Yasmeen Abutaleb).

As for Gottlieb himself, the team quotes him as saying that, unless the nation has a “different toolbox” by this fall—including therapeutics to inspire confidence and screening to detect small outbreaks—“we could end up with an 80% economy,” with people skipping trips to Disneyland and conferences and even the movies.

“Maybe we lift stay-at-home orders for between 9 to 5, but bars stay closed,” Gottlieb adds. “Or some businesses come back, but there are no meetings with more than 10 people. How we do this is really important.”

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