Bill Gates: Pandemic is a “nightmare scenario”, but national response can reduce casualties

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Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, who warned five years ago that the biggest threat in the world is a pandemic, says the current coronavirus crisis is “a nightmare scenario,” but said social distancing and a strong national response can keep losses below the figures cited by President Trump.

Trump made reference to a projection that the United States could see between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths from COVID-19 before the epidemic is brought under control.

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“Well, if we do the social distancing properly, we should be able to get out with the death toll well below,” Gates told Fox News Sunday, saying that disruptions in daily life were essential to keep the pandemic to be even worse.

“This is a nightmare scenario, since respiratory viruses transmitted between humans can develop exponentially,” he said. “And you know, if we kept going to work, traveling the way we were, you know, that curve would never curve until the majority of people were infected, and then a massive number of people asking for hospital care and a lot of deaths. “

Gates however suggested that the answer should be at the national level, not state or local. So far, state governors have led the charge, claiming in some cases that their populations are not properly served by Washington.

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“Well, when you have limited resources, you need to allocate them where they are most needed,” said Gates. “Certainly because people are moving across the country, we have to have the closure, otherwise you will have exponential growth. It will spread to other parts of the country. “

Gates noted that some states have more resources, while others are hit harder than others, ensuring that the federal government responds accordingly.

In a Washington Post editorial published last week, Gates called for a national halt and more testing, “to quickly identify potential volunteers for clinical trials and know with confidence when it’s time to get back to normal.”

Gates gave a Ted Talk in 2015 in which he warned that “we are not ready for the next epidemic”, but gave hope by saying “we can build a very good response system” to prepare. His suggestions included setting up a medical reserve corps to be paired with the military and “germ games” similar to military war games that could be used to run simulations.

“But between 2015 and 2020, less than 5% of what should have been done was,” said Gates to host Chris Wallace.

Gates noted that the current pandemic “is not the worst case,” given the relatively low death rate from a disease like smallpox.

“So it’s great, super bad, but – you know, we will end up getting a vaccine. Even before that, if we do the right things, we can open up important parts of the economy, “he said.

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Gates also said that the current crisis could serve as a learning experience so that the world can be better prepared for a future pandemic that could be even worse.

“I’m sure you know, once we get past that, we’ll look back, figure out what we could have done differently, and make sure we don’t let it happen again, especially because it could still be worse in terms of the death rate, “he said.

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