The state of the global and national Covid-19 pandemic is “bleaker than I expected,” said Bill Gates at CNN’s “Coronavirus Town Hall” on Thursday.
“Because our behavior and contact tracking does not work well [in the U.S.], we continue having a great diffusion of cases. And it’s embarrassing, “Gates said.
The Microsoft co-founder has been outspoken about the threat of infectious disease for years. In a now prophetic 2015 TED talk with over 35 million views, Gates said, “We are not ready for the next epidemic.”
In fact, Gates is “still quite disappointed” with the United States’ response to the current pandemic, citing the lack of leadership and coordination messages, he said on CNN.
Other reasons the United States has been hit hardest: People are ambivalent about following the important Covid-19 protocol, such as wearing a mask and self-quarantining, he said.
“The range of behaviors in the United States right now, some people are being very conservative in what they do, and some people are basically ignoring the epidemic, it’s huge,” Gates told CNN. “We have exhausted people’s patience.”
“Some people almost feel like it’s a political thing, which is unfortunate,” he added. (President Donald Trump has been accused of politicizing facial masks, for example. He does not wear one and, before his campaign campaign in Tulsa on Saturday, he said that people should “do what they want” by wearing a mask. Meanwhile, it is presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has said that, if elected, he would make face-wraps mandatory.)
As states reopen, people are less willing to stay home, quarantine and wear a mask, Gates said. And people who have not been immediately affected by Covid-19, or know someone who is, may not understand the seriousness of the situation.
“It’s almost as if people are willing to lock themselves up once and for a certain period,” said Gates. “To extend it beyond a certain [time], or even to get uncomfortable with the masks, it may require that someone you know not only test positive, but also very ill. “
Unlike the United States, countries like South Korea, Germany, and Australia have had success with contact tracing and quarantining when people become infected.
With the next wave of the virus approaching, which could take place in the fall and winter as the weather cools, it is imperative that people take preventive measures seriously. White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said the second wave is not inevitable as long as people remain strict.
“We now know that we are benefiting from the summer,” says Gates. “The infection will get worse in the fall, so that’s one more reason not to be completely lazy in our behavior.”
As for what Gates sees happening to the next highly infectious virus? “I am not fatalistic about future pandemics, although I am disappointed that we have not prepared for this one,” Gates told CNN.
The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It’s request for comment.
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