Melinda Gates has a strong take when it comes to the Trump Administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
“We are lacking leadership at the federal level in the United States, and it's highly distressing and disappointing,” the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation told me in a recent interview. “To have to have 50 state grown solutions is inefficient. It makes no sense. And it's costing people their lives.”
Melinda Gates, along with her husband Bill, the co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, established their foundation 20 years ago to principally address global healthcare issues. Both have been concerned about the risk of infectious diseases for years. In 2015 Bill Gates gave a TED Talk specifically warning of the risk of a pandemic.
That we lack a national testing system particularly irks Melinda Gates.
“If we had a good testing and tracing system like Germany has, we would have started to reopen slowly more places in the economy,” she said. “People wouldn't be struggling so much to put a meal on their table. The lack of action is really causing harm and hurt unnecessarily in this country. And I'm incredibly disappointed to see that.”
In addition to the $4 billion that the Foundation grants annually, some of which will go to fight COVID-19, the Gates have given an incremental $300 million to fight the disease.
“The 300 million specifically is going for diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines making sure that the science is pushing forward and that that will come out as quickly as possible with industry,” Gates said.
Gates has praise for some state and local officials.
“Luckily, you're seeing many governors step up and not only do the right thing for their state, but they're taking regional approaches now with other governors,” she said. “And so they're looking at what are the who are the exemplars who's done well on this, they're talking to each other, they're figuring out how do you make sure you get the protective gear out equitably? How do you make sure that when you have testing available, you get it out to healthcare workers first and then the most vulnerable.”
I asked why her husband Tweeted his unhappiness with President Trump when he announced he would freeze support for the World Health Organization.
“Bill and I both came out strongly,” she said. “We know the World Health Organization, it's not perfect. But we have worked with them for over 20 years. When you're in a crisis, and you know a partner is good and robust, you stand up for what's right, and you stand up for your partners.”
Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @serwer.