Scott Gottlieb on coronavirus and need for tougher restrictions

Governments across the U.S. need to follow the lead of the business community and impose tougher restrictions in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Wednesday. 

“Businesses are stepping up to take action … but it can’t just be the business community driving this,” Gottlieb said on “Fast Money Halftime Report.” “The governments also need to follow suit.” 

The decisions from companies both large and small to implement work-from-home policies and cancel conferences are important in limiting community spread of the disease, Gottlieb said. But more needs to be done, especially in areas hardest hit by the outbreak, he added. 

“I think it’s been different for some local governments to take these measures because they recognize the impact it’s going to have on their local economies,” said Gottlieb, a CNBC contributor who sits on the boards of Pfizer and biotech company Illumina. 

“That’s where Congress needs to step in and fashion a package of fiscal support that isn’t aimed at stimulating the economy but is aimed at supporting states and localities that take the tough measures to break chains of spread knowing that it’s going to impact their local economies,” Gottlieb said. 

He added he would also like to see support for workers who experience paycheck disruption and who cannot afford child care, if schools were to be closed. 

Gottlieb’s comments Wednesday came shortly after the World Health Organization officially named the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. 

But his remarks came before the state of Washington banned large gatherings in several counties across the state, which has been the hardest hit in the U.S. 

The state has more than 270 confirmed cases and at least 23 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University

San Francisco health officials also announced Wednesday that they are restricting gatherings of 1,000 or more to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Gottlieb complimented the steps taken by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who on Tuesday deployed the National Guard to New Rochelle to assist with containment. 

Located just north of New York City, New Rochelle had more than 100 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Tuesday. The state of New York had 186 confirmed cases as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Johns Hopkins data. 

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