Microsoft has been trying to tackle the coronavirus. It created a chatbot with The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, developed home-testing kits and a tracking tool, and donated $100 million for COVID-19 research.
But it's not enough, as highlighted by Bill Gates in an interview with TED Talks founder Chris Anderson on Tuesday. According to Gates, the United States reacted too slowly to the deadly viral outbreak. "Everybody should have taken notice back in January," Gates said, referring to the first case that was reported in Washington state.
"There's the period where before this showed up, we should've done more," Gates said. "There's the period between when we realized it was transmitting and now where we should've done more." Right now, Gates says, the official response is "blind" as it randomly selects who ought to be tested for the virus.
Weak funding, apparatus, and testing — Gates told Anderson that a robust official response to a viral outbreak requires a consistent governmental approach, including "government money." In the case of the United States, the Trump administration's response was initially one of nonchalance, with the president downplaying the risks of COVID-19. Later on, the administration began calling for testing, but the limited number of kits and lag in reaction showed how inadequate the United States' medical infrastructure is for contending with a pandemic. Of the delayed testing, Gates said:
It's pretty chaotic because the government hasn't stepped in to make sure that the testing capacity is both increased and it's used for the right cases.
Your social distancing helps — As Input recently reported, data demonstrate social distancing is crucial for battling the spread of the coronavirus. While talking to Anderson, Gates mentioned lockdowns and noted that while they are "disastrous" for the economy and burdensome for people, isolation is key for flattening the curve. "The sooner you do it in a tough way the sooner you can undo it and go back to normal," he explained, adding that:
It’s very tough to say to people, ‘Hey keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner, we want you to keep spending because there’s some politician that thinks GDP growth is what counts. It’s hard to tell people during an epidemic […] that they should go about things knowing their activity is spreading this disease.
The silver lining — While Gates appeared disappointed, he also had some encouraging words for his audience, especially when it came to the creativity that being confined to home can inspire.
"Can you mentor kids who are being forced into an online format where school systems weren’t really ready for that? Can you organize some giving activity that gets the food banks to step up where there’s problems there?" Gates asked. "These are such unprecedented times, and it really should draw out that sense of creativity, while complying with the isolation mandates."