Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the FDA

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The U.S. will need a “massive financial package” to curb the spread of COVID-19, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday.

The virus has spread past the point of containment, Gottlieb said, and hard-hit regions should be moving toward easing efforts such as school and business closures. He said a bailout now to encourage those steps would cost less than one after the outbreak spreads beyond control.

“We’re going to end up with a massive fiscal package, a bailout on the back end of this,” he said on “Squawk Box.” “We are better off using that money up front to help buy some of the actions that we need to mitigate this epidemic rather than spending that money on the back end after we’ve had a very large epidemic.”

The virus has infected more than 566 people in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University, and killed at least 22. Johns Hopkins’ data shows that the virus is now present in more than half of the states.

Gottlieb, a CNBC contributor who sits on the boards of Pfizer and biotech company Illumina, said the U.S. already has large outbreaks in multiple cities. He warned that if the country does not commit to strong mitigation efforts, the outbreak could overwhelm U.S. hospitals.

“The goal is to try to make sure that the peak of this epidemic, and we are headed for an epidemic here in the United States, doesn’t become so large that you’ve exhausted the health-care system,” he said. “That’s what happened in Wuhan, China.”

“We still have a narrow window of opportunity to implement tough mitigation steps that could prevent a very wide epidemic in the United States, but we’re losing time.”

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer and biotech company Illumina.

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