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Monday, July 27, 2020

July 27, 2020
Bill Gates appeared on CBS News on Wednesday evening to discuss COVID-19 image: CBS

Bill Gates has warned that any vaccine against coronavirus could take several doses to be effective, as he described 'serious mistakes' made by the Trump administration and said some schools may not be back to normal until the fall of 2021.

The Microsoft founder, who now directs much of his time and energy to his global health foundation, said that the closure of schools was, after deaths, the 'biggest cost' of the pandemic.

And, in an interview with Norah O'Donnell on CBS News, aired on Wednesday night, the Seattle-based billionaire was critical of Donald Trump's handling of the crisis.

'Some of the policies were a mistake,' said Gates.

'Opening up bars - the economic benefit versus the infection risk - a lot of policies like that made it a mistake.'

Gates, 64, emphasized that key to combating the virus was social distancing, wearing masks, and developing a vaccine.

His foundation has donated $300 million to support the efforts.

And Gates said that the closure of schools was among his biggest concerns.

'I'd put that, after the deaths, as the next biggest cost,' he said.

'This next academic year does hang in the balance, he continued.

'It's extremely important. You want the staff to feel safe, that you're taking measures on their behalf. You want the learning to resume.

'Sadly the suburban and private schools are doing a lot better at putting learning online.

'It's the inner cities that don't have the resources.'

He said policies should be put in place to help inner city schools, and younger children, get back to the classrooms.

'The big challenge is how to get the teachers and staff in, and avoid them being a source of infection when they go back to their households,' he said.

'If you're in a hotspot, sadly in this fall, it won't be normal. By fall 2021 we'll hopefully have this under control enough.'

Asked whether he would send his children to a public school, if he was in that situation, he replied: 'If a school is being careful, then yes. If they live in a multi-generational household, then you have to look at how hard it is to reduce the grandparents' exposure to the kids.'

On the issue of a vaccine, Gates said he had faith in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finding a safe and reliable vaccine.

But he warned that it would take 'unbelievably big numbers' of doses to wipe the virus out.

'None of the vaccines at this point appear like they'll work with a single dose,' Gates said. 'That was the hope at the very beginning.'

Gates, who has been warning about the threat of a global pandemic since 2015, admitted that 'there will be a lot of uncertainty' about the efficacy of any vaccine, but stressed that it's a solution 'that will improve over time.'

Gates said that he was dismayed by the response from the Trump administration, although he conceded that some of the 'serious mistakes' were made 'because we didn't understand the virus very well.'

Among those mistakes was not encouraging people to wear face masks, and reopening too quickly, he said.

He said Europe, in general, responded better.

'Their leadership communicated with a clear voice; their scientists were encouraged to go on tv rather than banned; and their population benefited,' he said.

'Just the idea that the CDC isn't being heard from, and that Fauci is being limited - you'd never have predicted that. It's really unexpected that you'd not have the experts able to share.'

Gates said the gagging of experts was 'holding us back' from receiving 'the benefit of their expertise'.

The U.S. on Wednesday reported more than 1,000 coronavirus deaths for the first time since May.

With 142,677 deaths in total, the U.S. has had the most deaths of any country by far, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.

Trump, however, said this week that the U.S. has the lowest mortality rate in the world.

Gates said that the president's statement is not factually correct.

'Not at all, not even close,' Gates said. 'By almost every measure, the U.S. is one of the worst.'

He added: 'We actually had criteria for opening up with cases declining, and we opened up with cases increasing.'

He said the campaign by anti-vaxxers, worried about a COVID vaccination was 'always a concern'. He emphasized that vaccines had halved childhood deaths over the last 20 years.

Asked about conspiracy theories that he was responsible for creating the virus, or implanting microchips within a potential vaccine, Gates, with a wry smile, said he had no idea where that baseless suggestion came from.

'No, there is no connection between any of these vaccines and any tracking type thing,' he said. 'I have no idea where this came from.'

He continued: 'Dr Fauci and I are the two most mentioned. Some of these are deeply ironic. Our foundation is about reducing death and bringing equity to health. The idea that we get accused of creating chips, or the virus - I think we need to get the truth out there, and explain our values, and why we are willing to put billions towards accelerating the progress.

'It's a little unclear to me, but I hope this will die down as people get the facts.'

Asked whether Facebook should do more to remove the conspiracy theories, he said: 'They are willing to take down anti-vaxxer posts. But you don't want to surpress normal dialogue. The conspiracy theories they are starting to step up on.'


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