Bill Gates says 'total attention' of foundation on COVID-19: Crisis will cost 'tens of trillions of dollars'

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After Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates laid out a plan on how to reopen the U.S. economy, he said his philanthropic foundation will largely focus of its efforts on the coronavirus pandemic, citing concerns the virus will cost the global economy “tens of trillions of dollars.”

“You’re going to have economies with greatly reduced activity levels for years,” Gates said in an interview with the Financial Times. “So-called ‘animal spirits’ are going to be hard to find, other than government largesse. We’re definitely in the tens [of trillions], which blows the mind. If you’d asked me six months ago, I wouldn’t have thought that was possible.”

Earlier this month, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it would give an additional $150 million to fight COVID-19, bringing its total contribution so far to $250 million.

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The additional $150 million came after Gates slammed President Trump's decision to halt funding to the World Health Organization during an ongoing investigation into its response on the pandemic, saying it "is as dangerous as it sounds."

Gates added in the FT interview that he thinks Trump will not withdraw funding from the WHO, as the president "will do deep analysis and decide that they probably should get more money, not less money.”

The 64-year-old Gates acknowledged that because of the sole focus on COVID-19, other areas the foundation has worked on, such as HIV, malaria and polio eradication, will take a hit.

“This [coronavirus] has the foundation’s total attention," Gates continued. "Even our non-health related work, like higher education and K-12 [schools], is completely switched around to look at how you facilitate online learning.”

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“This emergency has distracted a lot of critical work in many, many areas,” he said. “Fewer people able to show up for routine immunization or supply chains for immunization not working well, that’s hundreds of thousands of deaths right there. If we can’t keep getting malaria treatments out effectively, that’s a huge rebound in malaria.”

In a statement to Fox News, a Gates Foundation spokesperson said the organization "remains committed to its core areas of focus including reducing infectious disease, eliminating extreme poverty, and improving U.S. public education."

"The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all areas of our work and the ripple effects will be felt for years to come," the spokesperson added. "While we’ve announced more than $250 million in funding to date and a commitment to leverage our Strategic Investment Fund toward the pandemic, we are increasingly focusing the expertise of our staff and leveraging our partnerships toward the urgent efforts needed to end this pandemic. These are unprecedented times, but our belief that all lives have equal value and our commitment to addressing inequities across all of our work remains more critical than ever."

Last week, Gates said the need for more testing is vital to reopening the U.S. economy.

"It begins with testing," Gates wrote in an op-ed published in the Washington Post. "We can’t defeat an enemy if we don’t know where it is. To reopen the economy, we need to be testing enough people that we can quickly detect emerging hotspots and intervene early. We don’t want to wait until the hospitals start to fill up and more people die."

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As of Monday morning, nearly 3 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, more than 965,000 of which are in the U.S., the most impacted country on the planet.

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