Q&A Cafe with Scott Gottlieb: ‘I Don’t Think I Can Visit China Anymore’


Dr. Scott Gottlieb was interviewed by Carol Joynt at her Q&A luncheon held at the George Town Club on Oct. 7.  She recalled that the Q&A Café was started in October 2001 to bring the community together after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  She welcomed Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and noted they have been working together, as Joynt is a producer for CBS’s “Face the Nation” where Gottlieb has frequently appeared.

Carol asked what the impact of those appearances has been and was told, sharing perspectives and providing practical information. Gottlieb’s public health work has been subordinated to Covid. He has somehow found time to write “Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 crushed us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic.” He has sought to pinpoint political failures as well as structural problems and to identify solutions to what went wrong. Given the skepticism over public health advice, oversight of public health may be necessary.

Speaking of his career, he said his FDA role had been transformative in nurturing a strong public health ethic and the importance of expressing a consistent point of view.

Gottlieb spoke at some length about the origins of Covid and felt that the theory of the open market origin has been disproved. His opinion is that lab experiments on animals lacked preventative measures and China has not been forthcoming. We may never be able to prove that was the source as a very small circle has knowledge and better governance is required plus a global agreement.

The intelligence community needs to engage and has been at odds with NIH. Gottlieb joked “I don’t think I can visit China anymore.”  He was first alarmed when cases spiked in Wuhan and were termed “severe pneumonia.”

He contacted the White House urging coordinated action but received a tepid response. The President’s indifference was reported in the press, compounded by complacency on Capitol Hill. Leadership was lacking in test development and everything was too late.

Questioned on individual risk, Gottlieb said that guidance has been unclear and difficult to translate into practical advice. He believes that people need to assess their own risk.

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