Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates criticized the U.S. response to the coronavirus, telling CNBC the nation ranks “quite low compared to other countries” in executing testing and delivering a clear message on safe social practices such as wearing masks.
President Donald Trump, recovering from Covid-19 himself, has been dismissive of masks and even mocked Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in their first debate for wearing them. Trump, who returned to the campaign trail this week, has also repeatedly flouted advice from medical experts on the importance of social distancing by holding packed rallies with spotty mask-wearing among supporters. Trump has defended having crowds at his recent campaign events, saying they’re being held outside, where coronavirus transmission is less likely than indoors.
Without mentioning Trump, Gates said that unlike the U.S., many countries have “done very, very well” using the behavioral tools available to help blunt the spread of the coronavirus. The founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which works to tackle complex global health challenges, said it has nothing to do with politics.
“That’s a purely technical thing, not a political thing. Most governments take advantage of their scientists and listen to them. They don’t undermine them and attack them,” he said. “Mask compliance in the United States is quite poor. And yet the cost of the mask and the productivity lost from [not wearing] the mask, it’s quite an intervention.”
Gates also pointed out that social measures such as masks, social distancing and hand-washing are the primary tools to fight Covid-19 until “therapeutics or vaccines get out there in big numbers.”