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Bill Gates Gives Low Grade to U.S. Virus Response

Nov.20 -- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair Bill Gates talks about how the U.S. and Trump administration has responded to the Covid pandemic. Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait talks to him at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum.

Video Transcript

BILL GATES: In the case of the US, the only thing they've done well is they funded more R&D, not just for US-based companies, but for companies around the world, including a lot of these European constructs. And that was a good thing. That was a favor to the world. The rest of it, the US is sort of at the back of the pack-- the diagnostic work we did, the messaging. Even today, the messaging is reaching a new level of incoherence.

JOHN MICKLETHWAIT: Just on that, so I'm going to very quick-- quickly I'm going to come back to vaccines. But you look at the numbers. I just looked again on the Bloomberg Virus Tracker.

You look at the deaths for every million people. America is now close to 750 deaths. China, the other great participant in this conference, is around three deaths for every million people.

Obviously, one number may be a bit overcounted, the other undercounted. But by any measure, one country's done enormously better than the other. Why is the US being so bad compared with other people?

BILL GATES: I don't think comparing China and the US is that helpful, because China has a more authoritarian control over behavior than the US does. But if you compare the US to South Korea, Australia, the contrast is every bit as dramatic as it is with China. And so we didn't catch the epidemic at that early stage where the numbers are small before they get exponentially big. And we are facing, which the-- the [INAUDIBLE] model predicted that the fall will be very tough.

Some people didn't think the fall would be tough. But as they had looked at the numbers and saw in places like Brazil how the austral winter affected infection rates, they saw that. And so the bad news is the next six months in the northern hemisphere will be very tough. The good news is that both the vaccines and the therapeutics, in particular the antibodies, are coming along and will start to bring that number way down.

JOHN MICKLETHWAIT: But up to that point, presumably, we must rely on masks and all these things that America has not been-- and testing, especially.

BILL GATES: That's right. The behavior, the using the tests for people, and then if they test positive, you contact trace. And they-- those people make sure they're not infecting other people. The US still has a long ways to go on that, although the numbers are so extreme, you do have, finally, more agreement that restaurants, bars, a number of things we'll have to forgo during this next five-month period.

JOHN MICKLETHWAIT: Were you surprised by how badly America has done on that, very quickly?

BILL GATES: It's mind blowing. We have so many more PCR machines than-- per capita than any other country. We have the CDC that has the deep expertise. And it practiced how to communicate appropriately to the public.

They made some mistakes early on. Then they were completely muzzled. Nobody even knows the name of the people underneath Redfield who would have been the key communicators. And we had this so-called task force. So it is disappointing.