Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates told Yahoo Finance what he would do differently if he was in charge of the U.S. fight against the coronavirus, proposing a testing plan directed by the federal government, a bipartisan push for mask-wearing, and a “complex discussion” about reopening.
But before he made the policy suggestions, Gates advocated a change in posture toward top U.S. infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health experts.
“Trying to denigrate Dr. Fauci probably isn't the best approach,” says Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft (MSFT) and leading backer of public health initiatives worldwide.
“You want the experts to get the air time,” he adds. “Let them talk about what drug trials have worked [and] which ones haven't — don't mislead people on those things.”
The U.S. currently has the capability of containing the virus, Gates says.
“The capacity to do this right exists in the country,” he says.
The U.S. recorded 1.8 million coronavirus cases in July of about 4.5 million total infections recorded so far in the U.S., which marks a 66% increase over the month prior, according to a Reuters report released on Friday before that day’s figures became available. Deaths from the virus also increased in July, rising 19%, while the U.S. suffered four straight days of more than 1,000 deaths each this week.
An all-time low 32% of Americans approve of President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, according to a poll by Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. A different poll released by Quinnipiac in July found 65% of Americans have faith in Fauci.
On Tuesday, Trump wondered why Fauci has a high approval rating, “but nobody likes me.”
Along with his wife Melinda, Gates has donated more than $350 million to the fight against the pandemic through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He speaks regularly with Fauci about the development of treatments and vaccines to combat the virus, he said.
Gates, who serves as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, made the remarks in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
Until 2000, Gates led personal computing giant Microsoft. That year, he and his wife co-founded their foundation, which now employs nearly 1,500 people and boasts an endowment of $46.8 billion.
Proposing a set of policy shifts, Gates first posited a national testing strategy directed by the Centers for Disease Control, a federal agency.
“You just build a website, put the CDC name on it, and it will prioritize who should get tested,” he says. “The U.S. CDC is a very capable organization — the best in the world.”
He also said mask-wearing should be a protective measure supported and promoted widely by Democrats and Republicans.
“Get the message about masks to be a kind of bipartisan, let's-protect-other-people type message,” he says.
Looking ahead, as fall approaches, the U.S. needs to hold a nuanced conversation about how to reopen vital indoor spaces, including schools, Gates says.
“Then you engage in the complex discussion about which things it's beneficial to reopen,” he says.
“Perhaps kids under 15 — whereas schools for older kids in communities with lots of infection, sadly, you probably aren't going to be able to do in person,” he adds.