Dr. Scott Gottlieb says the precise variety of new US Covid circumstances each day is “a minimum of half one million”.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb presented a grim assessment of the US coronavirus outbreak on Friday, according to which the actual number of new infections per day is more than 500,000 – more than four times the current number of new Covid-19 cases diagnosed daily.

That record came on Thursday when 121,888 new infections were reported, according to Johns Hopkins University. A day earlier, the country recorded a daily case count of over 100,000 for the first time, part of a trend of record daily infections as the country’s epidemic climbed to its third peak before the holiday season.

“Remember, 120,000 cases is not 120,000 cases. We are currently diagnosing probably 1 in 5 cases at best, maybe a little less, so that’s at least half a million cases a day, probably more of the actual number of infections,” Gottlieb said on CNBC’s “Closing Bell”.

According to Gottlieb, a former commissioner for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under President Donald Trump, the situation is unlikely to improve in the worst-hit states without targeted measures to reduce transmission. “But we’re not doing that right now,” he said. “We are very concerned about the future and I think this will explode in a few weeks.”

“You have to really worry about what January will be like, what December will look like now, considering how this is going to rise,” added Gottlieb.

The worrying indicators go beyond the number of cases, said Gottlieb. Hospital data are worrying, he said. According to a CNBC analysis of data from the Covid Tracking Project, run by journalists in the Atlantic, the average number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 has increased by at least 5% in 36 states.

Many of the states reporting record hospital stays are in the American Midwest and West: Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and Wisconsin Wyoming.

In the US, more than 53,000 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19, according to the Covid Tracking Project. More than 10,000 people are in intensive care units, said Gottlieb. “That’s a lot and it’s growing very quickly.”

The death rate for Covid-19 patients has improved during the pandemic as doctors and healthcare workers have more experience treating the disease, Gottlieb noted. In addition, more patients would be treated at home than in the early days of the outbreak in the spring.

The challenge the country is currently facing is simply the number of people infected, he said. More infections will ultimately lead to more hospital stays, which at some point will drain health care resources, he said.

“It’s just a fact that even if we lower death rates and manage the people in the hospital better and … get people discharged easier and faster, we will infect a lot more people, so at some point the healthcare system will come under pressure,” said Gottlieb. He pointed to places where it has already happened, like Green Bay, Wisconsin, where a field hospital opened last month.

At the beginning of the pandemic, when a certain area like New York was experiencing a major crisis in its healthcare system, it was easier to source additional resources from across the country, Gottlieb said. “But when you have a very diffuse spread across the country where we’re going, it’s going to be difficult for the federal government to stop that much.”

The US has more than 9.6 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to Hopkins data. At least 235,761 people have died.

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