Microsoft magnate Bill Gates described the national and global coronavirus pandemic picture as “more bleak” than he would have expected, saying the US is “not even close” to doing enough to fight the contagion, according to a report.
The co-founder of the tech giant appeared Thursday night in a coronavirus town hall on CNN, where he lamented the fact that people are still dying of the illness across the country.
“It’s possible to ramp up testing for a new pathogen very, very fast,” he told hosts Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the network’s chief medical correspondent.
“In fact, a number of countries did that extremely well in this case and the technology keeps getting better there. The US in particular hasn’t had the leadership messages or coordination that you would have expected,” Gates said.
When he took part in a similar town hall two months ago, the death toll from COVID-19 across the US stood at 63,000 with more than 1 million cases recorded.
Today, there are at least 2.4 million confirmed cases and more than 122,000 people have died, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
Workers at the Rio Pax funeral home remove the body of a woman who died from the coronavirus.REUTERS/Pilar Olivares
Gates attributed the spike to a lack of testing and contact tracing, as well as the continued resistance by a large segment of the population to wearing face masks.
“The range of behaviors in the US right now, some people being very conservative in what they do, and some people ignoring the epidemic, is huge,” he said.
“Some people almost feel like it’s a political thing, which is unfortunate,” Gates added. “The governor of North Dakota, a friend of mine, had to say ‘Please don’t be mean to people wearing a mask,’ which kind of blows the mind.”
Gates said he remained hopeful that the US will “step up” and help get the tools — particularly a vaccine — out around the globe.
Gates said he has been in constant contact with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a member of the White House task force on the pandemic.
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A doctor and nurses treat a patient suffering from the coronavirus at El Tunal hospital in Bogota, Colombia.
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He added that he’s aligned with Fauci on his prediction that there will be a viable vaccine by the end of 2020 or early next year.
Along with his wife, Gates runs the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and pledged up to $100 million in February to help contain the outbreak around the world.