We need to make major innovative strides before we can lift coronavirus quarantines, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates wrote in a new Washington Post op-ed Thursday.
Gates has been outspoken about taking the coronavirus, officially called COVID-19, seriously. He recently predicted that if the U.S. can get its act together, states could potentially start to reopen by June. But there are still a few key areas we need to focus on for us to return to what was once normal.
Here are the four things Gates said we need to do to “return to business and life as usual.”
Gates said in the past that getting the U.S. organized on testing will allow us to overcome the rapid spread of the virus until a vaccine can be made.
“To reopen the economy, we need to be testing enough people that we can quickly detect emerging hot spots and intervene early,” Gates wrote Thursday. “We don’t want to wait until the hospitals start to fill up and more people die.”
He added that at-home testing would provide more people tests without putting health care workers at risk of contracting the virus. On that front, the Food and Drug Administration recently authorized the first at-home coronavirus test.
The coronavirus is extremely contagious, so Gates believes we must focus on how and where it spreads. Those who have tested positive should tell authorities where they have been and who they have come into contact with, allowing public health officials to use contact tracing to track down outbreaks before they hit.
Gates pointed to using location-tracking tools, such as an app that could track and notify people of cases near them. The U.S. government has already proposed using people’s cell phone location data for this use, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also created an app that could theoretically tell you if you crossed paths with someone who has the coronavirus. Apple and Google are also working on tools that use Bluetooth to track who infected people may have been near.
There’s no known treatment or cure for the coronavirus yet, but finding one would be key to getting back on track.
“If, a year from now, people are going to big public events — such as games or concerts in a stadium — it will be because researchers have discovered an extremely effective treatment that makes everyone feel safe to go out again,” Gates wrote.
Experts say it will take 18 months to create a coronavirus vaccine. Gates said we need to make investing in a successful vaccine a priority, noting that each delay pushes back our return to normalcy.
“Every additional month that it takes to produce a vaccine is a month in which the economy cannot completely return to normal,” he wrote.
Gates said he is most excited about an RNA vaccine, which makes disease-fighting antigens inside the body, rather than in a lab.
For the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 page.
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