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Bill Gates: US needs ‘clear priorities’ for COVID-19 testing, nationwide shutdown approach

Bill Gates believes making the right decisions now and using science and data to make decisions will save lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

SEATTLE — A nationwide approach to shutting down the country. Stepping up coronavirus (COVID-19) testing. Develop treatments and a vaccine using a data-based approach.

This is the three-step process Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said the U.S. needs to take to slow the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

In an op-ed published Tuesday in The Washington Post, Gates said the U.S. “missed an opportunity” to get ahead of the virus, but the “window for making important decisions hasn’t closed.”

“The choices we and our leaders make now will have an enormous impact on how soon case numbers start to go down, how long the economy remains shut down and how many Americans will have to bury a loved one because of COVID-19,” Gates wrote.

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The White House, which has been relying on a prediction model from the University of Washington, said on Tuesday there could be between 100,000 to 240,000 coronavirus deaths in the U.S. if social distancing is maintained. 

Gates said not having a nationwide approach to shutting down is a “recipe for disaster,” adding that the virus will be able to travel “freely” across state lines as long as people can.

“Until the case numbers start to go down across America — which could take 10 weeks or more — no one can continue business as usual or relax the shutdown. Any confusion about this point will only extend the economic pain, raise the odds that the virus will return, and cause more deaths,” he wrote.

The Microsoft co-founder also called for the federal government to step up COVID-19 testing and for more tests to be available. He also pointed to testing changes, like a self-swab that allows patients to take a sample themselves, would help protect health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Gates also called for “clear priorities” for who should be tested first, and which states should get personal protection equipment and medical supplies like masks and ventilators.

“First on the list [to be tested] should be people in essential roles such as health-care workers and first responders, followed by highly symptomatic people who are most at risk of becoming seriously ill and those who are likely to have been exposed," he wrote.

Finally, Gates said in the column that while scientists are working to develop treatments and a vaccine using data, leaders should help by “not stoking rumors or panic buying.” He said a vaccine could be ready in less than 18 months, but billions of doses would need to be created to protect Americans and people around the world. However, he said there are things the federal government can do now to help the process.

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“We can start now by building the facilities where these vaccines will be made. Because many of the top candidates are made using unique equipment, we’ll have to build facilities for each of them, knowing that some won’t get used. Private companies can’t take that kind of risk, but the federal government can,” he said.

As of Wednesday morning, there were over 887,000 coronavirus cases worldwide and more than 44,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University

Coronavirus | Facts not Fear

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