Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates appeared on CNBC on Wednesday to speak about the ongoing fight against the coronavirus. Gates, whose private charitable foundation has been working to counter the threat of pandemics for years now, kicked things off by putting the current situation into stark terms.
“With coronavirus, it’s quite fatal and quite transmissible,” he told CNBC. “It’s the nightmare that we’ve been talking about for a long time.”
Gates, who last week called for a nationwide shutdown in the US, added that more must be done in the coming weeks and months to combat the coronavirus threat.
“Unfortunately, the US isn’t uniformly shut down, so what you’re going to see is lots of exponential increase in various communities,” Gates explained. “Also, even though our testing numbers are going up … there’s no system of prioritization. That still needs to be fixed.”
Current challenges aside, Gates says he sees a path toward some sort of return to normalcy.
“If we get our act together countrywide, and if the compliance is very high, and that testing, including some innovations like the self-swab that our foundation has driven — if those get into place by early June, we’ll be looking at some type of opening up,” Gates said.
How that opening-up process unfolds, he adds, will depend on what we see from other countries, all of which are taking their own approaches to navigating the crisis.
“The absolute level has to be very, very low,” Gates said, adding that we need a new testing system that prioritizes tracking new cases, with contact tracing and quarantine enforcement. “The Asian countries are great examples of doing that at a very strong, national-level approach.”
As for calls to reopen the economy amid fears that the cure may be worse than the disease, Gates says everyone should be prepared to stay the current course for the foreseeable future.
“No one should think that the government can wave a wand and all of a sudden the economy is anything like it was before this happened,” he said. “That awaits either a miracle therapeutic that has an over 95% cure rate or broad usage of the vaccine.”
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, has frequently said that a vaccine is at least a year to 18 months away.