Bill Gates says coronavirus pandemic is a ‘nightmare scenario’ but the projected 240,000 Americans do not have to die if smarter testing is done
- Modelling projects that 240,000 Americans could die from the coronavirus pandemic but Bill Gates is optimistic that number could be reduced
- Bill Gates said Sunday: ‘If we do the social distancing properly, we should be able to get out of this with the death number well short of that’
- Microsoft founder believes by obtaining test results within 24 hours, the US will be able to quickly identify those an infected person has come into contact with
- Gates said compared to a disease like small pox, COVID-19 ‘isn’t the worst case’
- But he admitted: ‘This is a nightmare scenario because human-to-human transmittal respiratory viruses can grow exponentially’
- Gates predicted the next thing to kill millions would be ‘microbes’ when he spoke in a TED talk five years ago
Bill Gates has called the COVID-19 pandemic a ‘nightmare scenario’ but said fewer Americans will die than the 240,000 that modeling predicts, if the government is smarter about who and how they test.
Gates – the founder of Microsoft – predicted in a TED talk five years ago that ‘microbes not missiles’ would be more likely to kill millions of people around the world.
Now he has pushed a nationwide shutdown, limited domestic travel and administering more targeted testing to stop the overflow of patients at hospitals unable to cope with the surge in numbers.
‘Well, if we do the social distancing properly, we should be able to get out of this with the death number well short of that,’ Gates told Fox News Sunday.
Bill Gates admitted on Fox News Sunday: ‘This is a nightmare scenario because human-to-human transmittal respiratory viruses can grow exponentially’
Pictured are the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the US since January up until now
‘This is a nightmare scenario because human-to-human transmittal respiratory viruses can grow exponentially. And you know, if we had kept on going to work, traveling like we were, you know, that curve would never bend until you had the majority of the people infected and then a massive number seeking hospital care and lots of lots of deaths.’
The US is predicted to see its worst day in the coronavirus outbreak in 11 days when more than 2,000 people are expected to die.
Gates believes that by obtaining test results within 24 hours, the US will be able to quickly identify those an infected person has come into contact with so they can be isolated and slow the spread.
While there are strict international travel restrictions, Gates focused on the importance of domestic boundaries too.
‘Well, when you have finite resources you need to allocate them to where there’s the most need,’ Gates told host Chris Wallace. ‘Certainly because people move around the country, we have to have the shutdown or else you’ll have exponential growth. It will spread back into other parts of the country.’
The outbreak was identified in Wuhan, China in November with the first case in the US January. As early as February, before any lockdowns, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $10million to help fight the virus.
President Donald Trump stands in front of a chart labeled Goals of Community Mitigation showing projected deaths in the United States after exposure to coronavirus as 100,000 – 240,000. Pictured during the daily coronavirus response briefing at the White House in Washington on March 31
Bill Gates said: ‘If we do the social distancing properly, we should be able to get out of this with the death number well short of that’
Gates has criticized the government’s delay in taking precautions and serious action after the outbreak.
‘Between 2015 and 2020, less than 5 percent of what should have been done was done,’ Gates said.
During the interview from Microsoft’s Skype service, Gates admitted that he wakes up every morning thinking the pandemic is only the subject of his nightmares.
But he said compared to a disease like small pox, COVID-19 ‘isn’t the worst case’.
‘The one percent mortality rate when your system is not overloaded… if that was small pox that would be 30 percent,’ he explained.
‘So this is super, super bad, but we will eventually get a vaccine. Even before then, if we do the right things we’ll be able to open up significant parts of the economy,’ he said.
‘Once you’re in the crisis you’re doing your best to deal with this.’
He added: ‘I’m sure you know, once we get past this, we’ll look back, understand what we could have done differently, and make sure that we’re not letting it happen again, particularly because it could be even worse in terms of the fatality rate.’
Gates is pictured in a 2015 TED talk where he warned about ‘microbes’ being the enemy in the next pandemic. ‘Between 2015 and 2020, less than 5 percent of what should have been done was done,’ Gates said Sunday
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING TESTED FOR CORONAVIRUS
On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence announced that any American can be tested for coronavirus as long as a doctor approves it.
The move appears to expand upon previous criteria needed for testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But how do you determine if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and when you should see a doctor?
We break down everything you need to know about being tested for the virus that has infected more than 120 Americans and killed at least nine.
WHAT ARE THE LATEST GUIDELINES FOR BEING TESTED?
There are three groups of people that the CDC recommends get tested.
1. People with symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath who have been in ‘close contact’ with someone confirmed to have coronavirus
2. Patients with symptoms who have traveled to areas affected by the virus within the last 14 days
3. Those with symptoms who need to be hospitalized and no other cause for their illness is found. They don’t need to have a travel history or exposure to another patient
HOW DOES THIS DIFFER FROM THE PREVIOUS CRITERIA?
When the CDC first began testing, only those with a travel history to China – where the outbreak emerged – or those who had been exposed to a confirmed coronavirus patient were tested.
However, the agency says its criteria for testing is always ‘subject to change as additional information becomes available.’
WHAT TO DO IF YOU NEED A TEST?
Health officials strongly advise that anyone who believes they may be infected not show up unannounced at their doctor’s office in case they expose others to the highly-contagious disease.
Instead, the CDC suggests immediately calling your physician or healthcare provider.
‘Your healthcare professional will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19,’ the CDC’s website states.
If you are suspected of having the virus, you will most likely get tested at a hospital.
The test involves getting a swab of the patient’s nostril and throat. If the patient has a wet cough, a sample of sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus) will also be collected.
WHY HAS IT BEEN DIFFICULT FOR PEOPLE TO GET TESTED?
There have been multiple reports of people not having accessing to get tested.
The first batch of test kits that the CDC sent to state and local health departments were faulty, which led to a delay.
Secondly, the CDC had strict criteria for testing, which led to missed diagnoses of people who caught the virus from so-called ‘community spread,’ meaning it’s unknown how they were infected.
A third reason is that some health departments did not leave the decision to test up to doctors as the CDC suggested.
For instance, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health initially required doctors to call a hotline to determine if their patients met CDC criteria for testing.
Then, before the test could be administered, it had to be authorized at the State Public Health Lab.
WILL IT BE EASIER TO GET TESTED NOW?
Since the CDC’s testing fiasco, several health departments have either received new kits from the federal agency or made their own.
Additionally, the US Food and Drug Administration expanded its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) policy so allow more labs can apply for approval to test for the virus.
The CDC that 75,000 test kits are currently available and more are being manufactured.
FDA Commissioner Dr Stephen Han told reporters on Monday that close to one million people would be tested by the end of the week.
But figures from the Association of Public Health Laboratories show that likely no more than 100,000 people would be tested by week’s end.
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