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Bill Gates: Mass gatherings might not return until we get coronavirus vaccine

Apr 2, 2020, 12:06 PM
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(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
(AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Despite parts of Washington state starting to report a falling number of coronavirus cases, it could be many months until large-scale gatherings return in the United States.

Bill Gates estimates at least 6-10 weeks before coronavirus is quelled

Even after COVID-19 cases have fallen to a more manageable level, there are concerns among health officials that the virus may very well continue to return until a vaccine is developed. The best way to prevent that rebound? Thorough, expansive testing and tracking of cases, something the U.S. has yet to approach in its own response efforts.

“It’s most important to be looking forward and saying, ‘Are the number of tests growing? Is the speed which they come back less than 24 hours? And, are we testing the right people?’ We’re still not there,” Microsoft founder Bill Gates told the CBS This Morning podcast.

Without an acceptable level of testing, extreme social distancing measures are regarded by experts as the best tools to fight the spread of the virus sans a vaccine. Given that most timelines estimate that a vaccine won’t be ready for at least a year to 18 months, that makes ongoing, long-term social distancing measures that much more likely in the months ahead. This includes limits currently being imposed on large-scale gatherings.

State Superintendent says school closures likely to fall and beyond

“What does opening up look like?” Gates posited. “Which activities, like schools, can be done in a way that the risk of transmission is very low? And which activities, like mass gatherings, may be — in a certain sense — more optional? Until you’re widely vaccinated, those may not come back at all.”

This is backed by other research, including an Imperial College paper published in March, warning that “transmission will quickly rebound” if stringent social distancing measures are relaxed before a vaccine is produced.

That timeline is echoed in the U.S. government’s own 100-page plan for the pandemic, which spans 18 months, and warns that the outbreak could come in “multiple waves.”

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Bill Gates: Mass gatherings might not return until we get coronavirus vaccine