As we move into week six of social distancing and stay-at-home orders throughout the country, many states are preparing to lift restrictions beginning this week. CNN recently conducted an interview with Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft. His foundation has studied pandemics for years and is now involved with the fight against COVID-19. Gates told CNN during his interview that the country can begin to lift restrictions safely if they have the capacity to aggressively test for and trace new cases of the virus.
Many areas have concerns that if they reopen too soon it could cause a second wave of infection that could be as deadly as the first. “If they open up, they can go back into exponential (coronavirus infection) growth and compete with New York on that basis,” Gates said. Areas that reopen and allow people to move around could cause more seeding of the virus, infecting other areas of the country causing slowdown of a recovery of the pandemic.
In order to have a successful reopening, it will have to happen in stages, which would require having the most essential workers get back to work. It would require implementing safety measures that include testing and contact tracing. Gates said, “what we don’t know is, (if) we go slightly back to normal, which activities create the risk of a rebound? We need to put in place a very dense testing regime so you would detect that rebound going back into exponential growth very quickly and not wait for the ICUs to fill up and there to be a lot of deaths. If you see the hot spot, you kind of understand the activities causing that.”
Tasking preventative measures moving forward and careful planning to manage the virus is a crucial effort as it will take a while to develop a vaccine. The Trump Administration estimates it will likely take 12 to 18 months for a vaccine to be available, however,some leaders say that timeline could be too fast.
Gates wished he would have been able to get more people to understand the threat the virus posed on everyone earlier. “I always think, how could I have gotten the message out in a stronger way? Where did I fall short? Only 5% of what should have been done was done.”