On Fairness, Preparedness, And Heroism: Bill Gates Shares His Realizations About The COVID-19 Crisis
While he works from home like millions of people around the world, this entrepreneur and philanthropist shares his thoughts on and projections of the global pandemic, its consequences, and what can be done to reach a solution
While we'll always associate Bill Gates with ushering in the age of computers, this bright mind has nurtured other passions outside of tech and business, including aiding in the development of better healthcare systems as well as rallying for the funding of medical research.
He has come to the realization that with great power comes great responsibility, and he has chosen caring for global health as his life's next great mission.
Like many people—likely millions from around the world—he's working from home on most days these days. He's still hard at work and making sure his projects are running smoothly, but he's used the bit of extra free time that comes with the setup to participate in a meaningful Q&A about what's on everyone's minds: the COVID-19 global pandemic and its consequences.
In an interview with Reddit users, Bill answers pressing questions about the crisis and gives us all food for thought.
See some of the most important points he made:
On what to do to help each other during this time: Follow the rules for those who can afford to
"A big thing is to go along with the 'shut down' approach in your community so that the infection rate drops dramatically to let us go back to normal as soon as possible. Some people like health care workers will be doing heroic work and we need to support them. We do need to stay calm even though this is an unprecedented situation."
On how to help teachers and vulnerable students who will miss out on critical learning opportunities: Take advantage of technology whenever possible
"It is a huge problem that schools will likely be shut down for the next few months. I am impressed by the creative approaches that many teachers are coming up with to teach remotely. (If you are a teacher reading this, thank you for the work you’re doing.) But I know that not everyone is set up to teach remotely. There are a lot of good online resources out there, including Khan Academy, CommonLit, Illustrative Mathematics, Zearn, and Scholastic... We need to help any way we can."
On the issues of prioritizing A-list patients and VIP treatment for testing: Democratize the system
"We need to democratize and scale the testing system by having a CDC website that people go to and enter their situation. Priority situations should get tested within 24 hours. This is very possible since many countries have done it. Health care workers for example should have priority. Elderly people should have priority. We will be able to catch up on the testing demand within a few weeks of getting the system in place."
On the most effective COVID-19 precautions: It's simpler than you think
"Hand washing is key. Keeping a distance. Having someone else do it if you have a fever or are coughing."
On getting vaccines ready for safe use: Work is in progress and going as fast as it can (Hopefully, they'll be ready in 18 months or less, but no promises made).
"There are over 6 different efforts going on to make a vaccine. Some use a new approach called RNA which is unproven. We will have to build lots of manufacturing for the different approaches knowing that some of them will not work. We will need literally billions of vaccines to protect the world. Vaccines require testing to make sure they are safe and effective. Some vaccines like the flu don’t for the elderly. The first vaccines we get will go to health care workers and critical workers."
On the rationale of social distancing despite the hassle: It's not about you; it's about those that will suffer if you don't do it.
"The only model that is known to work is a serious social distancing effort ('shut down'). If you don’t do this then the disease will spread to a high percentage of the population and your hospitals will be overloaded with cases. So this should be avoided despite the problems caused by the 'shut down.' If a country doesn't control its cases then other countries will prevent anyone going into or coming out of that country."
On what governments can learn from their missteps during this crisis: Take healthcare seriously.
"No one could predict what the chance of a new virus emerging was. However we did know it would happen at some point either with a flu or some other respiratory virus. There was almost no funding. The creation of CEPI which was funded by our foundation, Wellcome, Norway, Japan, Germany, and the UK was a step but tiny compared to what should have happened. We prepare for possible wars and fires and now we have to have preparation for epidemics treated with the same seriousness."
On how to prepare for inevitable pandemics of the future: Global cooperation, not competition
"I think that after this is under control that Governments and others will invest heavily in being ready for the next one. This will take global cooperation particularly to help the developing countries who will be hurt the most. A good example is the need to test therapeutics wherever the disease is to help the whole world. The Virus doesn't respect national boundaries."
Photos from @thisisbillgates