Bill Gates said in a town hall with CNN this week that U.S. testing data for coronavirus is "bogus" because it takes too long for results to come back. Whereas in some other countries same-day testing exists, in the U.S. it can take several days before people are told whether or not they have the virus. The problem with that is people are most infectious within the first three to four days after infection, and may continue to interact with others until they have their results back. "What's the point of the test?" Gates asked. "That's your period of greatest infectiousness."
Gates also said that the data doesn't accurately reflect the country's population because fewer testing faculties are located in lower-income areas. Research has shown that COVID-19 disproportionately affects marginalized communities. "The United States does not prioritize who gets tested," he added.
The U.S. is testing about 200,000 people daily, but experts say testing needs to be far more widespread in order to get a good idea of the infection rates and start opening the economy back up.
American exceptionalism? — Other countries have had a much faster response to the outbreak and consequently faster recoveries. South Korea was able to activate a system it put in place after the MERS outbreak five years ago that included expanded testing capabilities and contact tracing. That country recently reported its first day in months without a newly diagnosed case of coronavirus.
New Zealand, meanwhile, enacted much tougher lockdowns than the U.S. and has "effectively eliminated" coronavirus with only two reported cases on April 30. The U.S. response has been slow and haphazard, with some states incredibly deciding to open back up even as the country's death toll now exceeds 60,000 and new reported cases remain high.
“We had a chance to contain this outbreak, but we didn’t,” said Ashish Jha, K.T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in an interview with ABC News. “And as a result of that testing failure, over 60,000 Americans are dead and our economy has been shut down. It didn’t have to be this way.”
America is exceptional all right — exceptionally bad at responding to a pandemic. And so here were are, relying on billionaires like Gates to contribute the resources necessary to fight this. His and his wife's philanthropic organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has pledged over $250 million to help poor communities accelerate the detection and containment of the virus. Despite this, Gates has become a target for conspiracy nutters. No good deed, eh?