Bill Gates ranks among the most publicized commentators of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it’s true that the Microsoft co-founder and CEO is by no means an infectious disease expert, he has a lot of experience monitoring global outbreaks of the recent past.
This very experience has made Gates an outspoken critic of our disparate national response to the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Though he appears to be optimistic about our handling of health crises of the future by the same token.
Next time around (god, I really hope there isn’t a next time around), Gates believes we need to have at least 3,000 first responders operating around the clock, mass testing, more accurate testing, some kind of global alert system so that nations around the world can choreograph measures in unison, and a bigger budget for epidemiological research.
“To prevent the hardship of this last year from happening again, pandemic preparedness must be taken as seriously as we take the threat of war,” Gates said in his annual letter published earlier today. “The world wasn’t ready for the Covid-19 pandemic. I think next time will be different.”
Gates and his wife penned the address together—framing it as a retrospection of the victories and blunders that spanned 2020 with respect to SARS-CoV-2. The victories mainly concern medical austerity.
If you’re like me, terms like viral debris and contact tracing were totally absent from your dialogue before COVID. Now, everyday Americans discuss updates in medical journals the way we used to talk about who’s dating who according to the gossip rags. This extra bit of awareness reportedly yielded significant decreases in transmissions of respiratory illnesses like influenza and the common cold in the US last year.
“The pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has infected at least 67 million people and killed 1.5 million worldwide. The patchwork of responses intended to fight the pandemic — from temporary lockdowns to mask wearing, social distancing, enhanced personal hygiene and reduced travel — has had a huge impact on other common respiratory illnesses, too,” the nature journal reports.
The blunders had all to do with preparedness. Bill and Melinda Gates contend that mega-diagnostic platforms need to be funded in order to efficiently test the public for pathogens before comunal spread occurs. “The world needs to spend billions to save trillions,” they wrote.
This is the exact kind of Gatesism that sparks tin-foiled hats and debates around the water cooler. In America, it is sometimes difficult to swallow prescriptions from obscenely wealthy figures with resources we couldn’t possibly attain. But in this instance, the research literature confirms that systemic shortcomings plagued coronavirus countermeasures from day one of the pandemic.
We’re seeing it now with the vaccine candidates that have passed their clinical trials. Pfizer and Moderna produced COVID vaccines with haste and efficacy only for disorganization to anchor their safe administration to the public. Recently, various health systems opted to widen the list of demographics deemed eligible to receive prime doses.
Until vaccines reach everyone, new clusters of disease will keep popping up,” the letter went on to explain. “Those clusters will grow and spread. Schools and offices will shut down again. The cycle of inequality will continue.”
The stark tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic is putting the vast majority of Americans on a healthier path. Surveys indicate that most people are wearing face masks when they travel, washing their hands between meals, and getting more involved in micropolitical events.
“Two decades ago, we created a foundation focused on global health because we wanted to use the returns from Microsoft to improve as many lives as possible. Health is the bedrock of any thriving society,” the letter concluded. “If your health is compromised—or if you’re worried about catching a deadly disease—it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. Staying alive and well becomes your priority to the necessary detriment of everything else.”