Bill Gates took to Reddit on Wednesday to answer questions about the COVID-19 outbreak during an Ask Me Anything session on the Coronavirus subreddit. The Microsoft co-founder, whose Gates Foundation helps fight disease around the world, shared some insights into his thoughts on the current global pandemic, as well as what we should be doing and can expect to happen these coming months.
As of this writing, there have been more than 205,450 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide, and 8,248 confirmed deaths, according to an online dashboard that tracks cases. However, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the coronavirus and lots of questions when it comes to what we can expect going forward.
Here are the biggest takeaways from Gates’ coronavirus Reddit AMA.
Gates said one thing that we do know is that social distancing is effective at limiting the spread of the virus and that we all need to be self-isolating right now.
“A big thing is to go along with the ‘shutdown’ approach in your community so that the infection rate drops dramatically to let us go back to normal as soon as possible,” he wrote. “If you don’t do this, then the disease will spread to a high percentage of the population, and your hospitals will be overloaded with cases. So this should be avoided despite the problems caused by the shutdown.”
“With the right actions, including the testing and social distancing, within 2-to-3 months, the rich countries should have avoided high levels of infection. I worry about all the economic damage, but even worse will be how this will affect the developing countries who cannot do the social distancing the same way as rich countries and whose hospital capacity is much lower,” Gates wrote. “Most rich countries should be able to achieve a low level of infections. Some developing countries will not be able to do that.”
Gates said to look at China right now as an example, since they are a couple of months ahead of us and slowly going back to normal.
“China is seeing very few cases now because their testing and shutdown was very effective. If a country does a good job with testing and shutdown, then within 6-to-10 weeks, they should see very few cases and be able to open back up,” Gates wrote.
Testing in the U.S. is nowhere near where it needs to be, and Gates said that getting the U.S. organized on testing will allow us to beat the virus quicker.
“China is doing a lot of testing. South Korea is also doing a good job of testing. Once China got serious in January, they have been quite open about their cases, so yes, the good news is they are seeing very few infections at this point,” he said.
“The testing in the U.S. is not organized yet,” Gates added. “In the next few weeks, I hope the government fixes this by having a website you can go to to find out about home testing and kiosks. Things are a bit confused on this right now.”
Gates also added that work is being done on getting test kits sent to people’s homes so that tests can get to the people who are a priority, such as the elderly or the immunocompromised.
According to Gates, there are currently six different efforts going on right now to make a coronavirus vaccine.
“Some use a new approach called RNA, which is unproven. We will have to build lots of manufacturing for the different approaches knowing that some of them will not work. We will need literally billions of vaccines to protect the world. Vaccines require testing to make sure they are safe and effective.”
Gates added that when a successful vaccine is created, it will go to health care workers and “critical workers” first.
“This could happen before 18 months if everything goes well, but we and [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony] Fauci and others are being careful not to promise this when we are not sure. The work is going at full speed,” he added.
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