Bill Gates is not sugarcoating how he feels about the US coronavirus response: It is bad.
He told STAT's Helen Branswell that the US response to the virus has "been a mismanaged situation every step of the way," and said: "it’s unbelievable — the fact that we would be among the worst in the world.”
"You have people at the White House who aren't epidemiologists, you know, saying what a great job they've done," Gates also told Bloomberg. "So it's no longer a set of experts."
Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates is unafraid to tell you how he really feels about the US coronavirus response. And it's not good.
It's a sentiment Gates has been been uttering for months now, but in the wake of two major federal missteps, Gates is irate.
First, in late August, the commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration overstated recent findings on the success of convalescent plasma to treat coronavirus patients, to the dismay of many other top government scientists.
Then, in September, Politico unearthed that the Trump administration has been watering down the science coming out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to better match it to the president's cheery pandemic messaging.
'This is third grade math'
"This is third grade math. I mean, are you kidding?" Gates told STAT's Helen Branswell of the convalescent plasma snafu. "The head of the FDA got up and said it was a 35% death reduction where it's not even a 3% reduction, based on just a tiny little subset that was nonstatistical. This is unheard of."
When asked by Bloomberg "do you still trust the FDA?" Gates seemed unsure.
"I think in the FDA, there's a lot of professionals," Gates told Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker. "Historically, just like the CDC was viewed as the best in the world, the FDA had that same reputation as a top-notch regulator. But, you know, there's been some cracks with some of the things they've said at the commissioner level. Hopefully, the staff isn't pulled in that direction."
As for the CDC, Gates said it's near-impossible to take the public health agency's advice seriously anymore, as the scientists working there have largely been silenced in favor of watered-down advice that better mirrors the Trump administration's rosy and shrugging "it is what it is" outlook on the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far killed more than 193,000 people across the US.
The CDC's guidance and expertise on everything from addressing possible COVID-19 risks, to recommending mask-wearing, and creating cautious and detailed plans for office, restaurant and school reopenings, has either been pooh-poohed, altered, shuffled around, or shelved entirely by Trump administration insiders.
"The CDC is largely being written out of the picture," Gates told Bloomberg. "Because you have people at the White House who aren't epidemiologists, you know, saying what a great job they've done. And so it's no longer a set of experts."
Hiring people who believe in 'crackpot theories'
One Trump appointee, Michael Caputo, has been promoting coronavirus conspiracy theories, and accusing career scientists in the federal government of sedition.
Another new member of the White House's coronavirus task force, neuroradiologist Scott Atlas, has reportedly been suggesting to Trump that the US adopt the deadly, non-strategy known as "herd immunity" (a term that's meant to be reserved to describe the kind of protection humans get from vaccines, not from killing off the most vulnerable members of their communities.)
"The administration's now hired this Stanford guy who has no background at all just because he agrees with their crackpot theories," Gates said of Atlas, in his interview with STAT.
With or without leadership from the US, Gates is confident that the world will get back on track towards the development goals of reducing poverty and eliminating deadly vaccine-preventable diseases, in the next two to three years.
But first, everyone will need equitable access to a coronavirus vaccine.
"Creating a perfect barrier between your country and the rest of the world is very, very difficult to do," he said, as his foundation's 2020 Goalkeepers report was released.
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