In a virtual interview last week, pandemic prophet Bill Gates broke the grim news that the U.S. has run out of options and must combat the coronavirus outbreak at the cost of economic growth.
Elaborating this view further in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week, the billionaire philanthropist laid out three steps that would most effectively flatten the coronavirus curve in the U.S. “There’s no question the United States missed the opportunity to get ahead of the novel coronavirus,” Gates wrote in the opinion piece published on Monday. “But the window for making important decisions hasn’t closed.”
With economic concerns now out of the picture, Gates first and foremost called for a nationwide shutdown for ten weeks, the minimum period he said it will take to see the number of new COVID-19 cases decline. “We need a consistent nationwide approach to shutting down,” he wrote, adding that, “despite urging from public health experts, some states and counties haven’t shut down completely. In some states, beaches are still open; in others, restaurants still serve sit-down meals.”
“The country’s leaders need to be clear: Shutdown anywhere means shutdown everywhere,” the Microsoft cofounder urged.
Other than strict shutdown and social isolation, Gates highlighted the importance of expanding testing capacity and vaccine and treatment development.
In recent days, the FDA has approved multiple innovative COVID-19 test technologies that can return results within minutes. More test kits are under development, including an at-home self-test kit funded by the Gates family foundation. Gates stressed that, when test kits are in short supply, health care workers and highly symptomatic patients should be tested first—the same goes for other medical supplies like ventilators and face masks.
And his last piece of advice: “We need a data-based approach to developing treatments and a vaccine.”
Based on past vaccine development records, our best hope for getting a COVID-19 vaccine will take about 18 months, Gates said. And mass producing it will ultimately rely on government support.
“Creating a vaccine is only half the battle. To protect Americans and people around the world, we’ll need to manufacture billions of doses,” Gates explained. “We can start now by building the facilities where these vaccines will be made. Because many of the top candidate [vaccines] are made using unique equipment, we’ll have to build facilities for each of them, knowing that some won’t get used. Private companies can’t take that kind of risk, but the federal government can.”