Dr. Scott Gottlieb urged Americans on Thursday to take precautions in their daily life to cut down on coronavirus transmission, as the nation experiences a worrisome surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations.
"We have to get through the next two or three months, and so this is going to be, really, a temporary pain," Gottlieb said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "We're not going back to the broad-based lockdown mitigations. We're smarter than that now. We can target the mitigation now, but we are going to have to take prudent steps."
In addition to wearing masks and avoiding congregating indoors, Gottlieb called on people to reduce their mobility — that is, "trying to find excuses not to go out" instead of "excuses to go out."
"This is really one last surge of infection that we have to grapple with. I do believe 2021 is going to be better," added Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner in the Trump administration. He pointed to advances around treating Covid-19 patients and the possibility of a widely available vaccine next year.
But with a seven-day average of new infections now at roughly 127,600, a 35% increase from a week ago, Gottlieb stressed that action is needed now to prevent hospitals from being deeply strained across the United States. Already, he said, health-care systems throughout the nation are "a little pressed right now," while those in Wisconsin, the Dakotas and parts of Texas are "overwhelmed."
Twenty-two states are experiencing all-time highs in Covid patient hospitalizations, based on a seven-day average, according to a CNBC analysis of data from the COVID Tracking Project, an effort run by journalists at The Atlantic. Overall, more than 65,000 people are hospitalized in the U.S. with Covid.
Hospitalizations are "rising very quickly, and that's what is concerning," Gottlieb said, as governors across the United States begin to reimpose tougher restrictions on businesses in response to the worsening outbreak. On Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said bars and restaurants in New York must end on-premise service at 10 p.m. ET. In Ohio, where Covid-19 hospitalizations are up 37.4% compared with a week ago, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced new restrictions on banquets, post-funeral gatherings and wedding receptions.
"We have seen great tragedy, great tragedy, associated with some these events," DeWine said Wednesday in a statewide address. He also warned that if the "current trend continues" in the state, "we will be forced ... to close restaurants, bars and fitness centers."
The U.S. now has more than 10.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases, and at least 241,809 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
"People need to take steps in their own personal lives" to avoid infection, said Gottlieb, who again warned of the risks associated with the Thanksgiving holiday. He has said previously his family will not be holding a gathering this year.
"The bigger risk of Thanksgiving is not going to be any one setting. It's going to be the mobility, the people moving around, and people coming together in congregate settings where they feel safe, but there might be someone who is asymptomatic," Gottlieb said.
— CNBC's Nate Rattner contributed to this report.