Bill Gates is concerned the United States is vulnerable to a second wave of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 if states are not careful about how they lift social distancing restrictions.
“I’m super-worried about it,” Gates said in an interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein Show Monday. “Unless they’re very gradual and pick the things that we know don’t raise the rate of infection over one, then you’re going to have this heterogeneity where parts of the U.S. will be doing well and other parts will be doing poorly. The temptation to interdict travel between those parts will be very difficult.”
In the last few weeks, a number of states in the U.S. have begun discussions about reopening and allowing more people to return to work or to meet in public. But this risks causing a resurgence in the number of cases of the virus if not done carefully, as has been seen in Singapore.
Scientists around the world share this concern, with an article published last month in Nature warning that quarantine restrictions should be lifted “gradually and with ultra-caution and very close monitoring and surveillance” to avoid a second wave.
Gates also said testing for the virus was far below the level needed to reopen the country — and that tests were being wasted on those who were asymptomatic.
“Some people have access to testing who have no symptoms, and some people with symptoms have no access to testing,” he told Vox. “So a substantial percentage of the testing is not helpful. It’s almost corrupt in the sense that if you have a close relationship with your doctor in a hospital, you’ll get onto their PCR machine no matter what your circumstances are. And if you don’t have that type of connection, even if you’re a health care worker, you can get tests back five days later.”
Gates also announced in an interview with the Financial Times that he would be shifting the focus of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that he co-chairs with his wife to focus “almost entirely” on coronavirus-related issues. The Foundation works to improve health care, reduce poverty, and expand education around the world, and with the pandemic affecting so many areas of life those goals can best be achieved by focusing on research into the virus.
Gates has become both a prominent voice calling for more funding and research into disease outbreaks, and a top target for conspiracy theories about the origin of coronavirus. He has been warning about the destructive scale a global pandemic could reach since 2015, and recently shared his ideas about the four innovations that would be required to end quarantine restrictions safely.
For the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 page.
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