Bill Gates on COVID-19: 'Fall 2021 won't be completely back to normal'

Erin Fuchs
·Deputy Managing Editor
·3-min read

Despite efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the world still won’t be back to normal even a year from now, Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates predicts in a new interview.

Gates has sounded the alarm on pandemics for years, and in April he told PBS that Americans would not be “completely safe” from COVID-19 until the fall of 2021. But the tech founder and philanthropist has a bleaker prediction these days, citing a sluggish global response to a pandemic that has killed over 1 million people around the world.

“The slowness on the global response means that, you know, fall 2021 won’t be completely back to normal,” Gates told Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer on Oct. 15, in an interview that will be aired as part of the All Markets Summit on Monday, Oct. 26.

UNSPECIFIED - JUNE 24: In this screengrab, Bill Gates speaks during All In WA: A Concert For COVID-19 Relief on June 24, 2020 in Washington. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for All In WA)
UNSPECIFIED - JUNE 24: In this screengrab, Bill Gates speaks during All In WA: A Concert For COVID-19 Relief on June 24, 2020 in Washington. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for All In WA)

While he’s best known for co-founding Microsoft, Gates has become an outspoken public health advocate and even gave a TED talk in 2014 presciently called, “The next outbreak? We’re not ready.” Indeed, the U.S. in particular was ill-prepared for the pandemic, a fact that Gates has repeatedly called out since the virus tightened its grip on the country in March.

In particular, Gates has criticized a decision by the Trump administration to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO) by July 2021, tweeting that the move was “as dangerous as it sounds.” The U.S. has already said it will redirect $62 million it owes to WHO for dues this year.

As the U.S. signals a reluctance to cooperate on a global level, experts say the country is already experiencing a third wave of the virus amid cooling temperatures and a desire to gather with friends and family members. On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that 16 states had added more cases in the prior seven days than they had during any other seven-day period.

A health worker takes a swab sample from a man to test for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Borough Park area of Brooklyn, New York, U.S., September 25, 2020.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
A health worker takes a swab sample from a man to test for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Borough Park area of Brooklyn, New York, U.S., September 25, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“Sadly, as we go into the fall, the number of cases and deaths is going to go back up again,” Gates told Yahoo Finance. “And the reason those numbers are so high is partly because our response was very poor.”

‘Closer to normal’

Still, Gates showed signs of optimism in his interview with Yahoo Finance, suggesting the situation in the U.S. will vastly improve by fall 2021. “A lot of the service jobs can be back in place, and certainly school can be back in place, but we’ll have risk of it coming back into the country during that time period,” Gates said.

While Gates acknowledged there’s a chance that vaccines won’t be effective by the fall of 2021, he said the said the likelihood of that is now “very, very low.”

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser for the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, has an even rosier prediction, telling ABC News on Wednesday that every person in the U.S. could be vaccinated by June 2021. Still, other experts believe that a vaccine won’t be widely available to the public until fall of 2021.

For his part, Gates says, by the fall of 2021, “I think things will be a lot, a lot different, closer to normal than to what they are today.”

Erin Fuchs is deputy managing editor at Yahoo Finance.

Read more:

Bill Gates: Spread of ‘outrageous’ coronavirus video shows flaw in social media platforms

Ex-Obama adviser Zeke Emanuel on COVID: ‘It’s scary. It’s going to go up’

Bill Gates: US coronavirus response ‘shocking’ and ‘among the worst in the world’

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