Bill Gates has issued a grave warning that the United States is “not even close” to doing enough to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Gates made the statement on a CNN Coronavirus Town Hall last night. It was Gates’s first appearance on the show in eight weeks—and in that time, things have gone from bad to worse in America.
“The U.S. in particular hasn’t had the leadership messages or coordination that you would have expected,” Gates told CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. That lack of leadership and coordination is one of the reasons COVID-19 cases are surging.
When Gates appeared on the show in April, the U.S. had 63,000 deaths and 1 million recorded COVID-19 cases. As of today, the country has suffered 124,000 deaths and has had over 2.4 million confirmed cases. And this week, a number of states have hit all-time high daily infection rates. By October, U.S. COVID-19 deaths are now expected to hit 180,000.
Gates also dismissed a frequent Trump claim that the rise in cases was solely due to more testing being conducted, calling it “completely false.” And Gates isn’t alone in that line of thinking either. As Dr. Anthony Fauci recently explained to The Atlantic:
Clearly, if you do more tests, you will pick up more cases that you would not have picked up if you don’t do the tests. But—and this is a big but—what you look at is what percentage of the tests are positive. If the percentage of any given amount of tests in one week—take an arbitrary number, [if] 3 percent [are positive]—and the following week it’s 4 percent, and the week after that, it’s 5 percent: That can’t be explained by doing more tests. That can only be explained by more infections.
Gates also lamented the reaction some people were having to fighting the pandemic, such as opposition to wearing face masks, claiming they infringed on their personal liberties. “Some people almost feel like it’s a political thing, which is unfortunate,” Gates said. “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.”
As for the biggest question on everyone’s mind, Gates says he’s still hopeful a vaccine could come by the end of this year or early 2021. However, Gates noted that an ideal vaccine must do two things. First, it obviously must protect the vaccinated from catching COVID-19. But then it should also prevent the vaccinated from transmitting the disease to another person. On the second point, Gates warned, “It’s not guaranteed that the vaccine will be a perfect transmission blocker.”
“If it’s a great vaccine, including the transmission blocking, everyone will benefit from the fact that 70% to 80% of the people will take the vaccine,” Gates said. “We should be able to get herd immunity if you get up to that level, so it really could then—really exponentially—drop the numbers.”
But Gates cautioned that even if you have a great vaccine, the biggest hurdle may be ensuring that people take it. And with the number of conspiracy theories floating around about COVID-19 already, ensuring everyone takes the vaccine may be particularly challenging in some areas.