Bill Gates is warning that the US is still “very much in the thick of things” when it comes to COVID-19.
And he believes that, given that many people refuse to wear masks and practice social distancing, that we are heading for another big round of infections in the fall.
“Better treatment is reducing the deaths, but, particularly as you get into October and November, this thing will be back in big numbers, if we don’t restrain our behavior more than it looks like we are right at the moment,” Gates warned during a CNN Global Town Hall on Thursday evening.
While Bill Gates is best known as the billionaire cofounder of Microsoft, he has also become a worldwide authority on viral pandemics through his philanthropic work with his foundation. He’s been funding vaccines research for decades, especially working to eradicate malaria, and famously warned the world about pandemics way back in a 2015 Ted Talk.
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Now that a pandemic is upon us, Gates has voiced his disappointment in the Trump administration’s lack of leadership both here and abroad, meaning the US has not used its position as a world superpower to contain the spread of the virus, as it could and should have.
“We do need to think about the world here and, you know, that I’m still pretty disappointed, and without US leadership, it’s been hard to pull together, you know, a response,” he said.
“The only good news in this is that the death rate has gone down somewhat, as we’re learning how to treat people better, we’re less overloaded,” he added, but then stressed. “But the global picture and the US picture are both more bleak than I would have expected.”
Gates continued that “we’re not as tough on contact tracing or enforcing quarantine” nor have many people in the US been taking wearing masks seriously. Some political groups are actively opposed to wearing masks, an idea that is not particularly helpful if the goal is to reduce the spread of the deadly illness.
“The governor of North Dakota, a friend of mine, had to say, ‘Hey, please don’t be mean to people who are wearing a mask,’ which kind of blows the mind,” Gates said of the state’s Republican governor, Douglas Burgum, who made an impassioned plea last month asking citizens to stop associating mask wearing with political parties/ideologies.
Such lax behavior has been given a bit of a break because of the warm temperatures of summer, Gates said. But he warned that’s why people should brace for fall, when cooler temperatures will return.
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“The weather is helping us a bit — May would have been much worse if the virus wasn’t somewhat seasonal. And so we know now that we’re benefiting from the summer. And so force of infection will get worse in the fall, so all the more reason not to get completely lax in our behavior.”
Ultimately, the solution is a vaccine, Gates said, and he remains hopeful that more than one vaccine will become available and will be mass-manufactured.