Bill Gates says nationwide shutdown, more testing needed to 'save lives' and restart economy

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Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who has been increasingly vocal about America's response to the coronavirus pandemic, laid out three major steps the country must take to bring the virus to heel.

In a Tuesday op-ed for The Washington Post, the tech mogul said "the window for making important decisions hasn’t closed.”

Rather than the more piecemeal, state by state approach that's been taken thus far with respect to sheltering in place and physical distancing, Gates called for a uniform federal response.

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“Until the case numbers start to go down across America – which could take 10 weeks or more – no one can continue business as usual or relax the shutdown,” he said in the Post column. “Any confusion about this point will only extend the economic pain, raise the odds that the virus will return, and cause more deaths.”

In the op-ed, the philanthropist wrote that more tests must be made available and that authorities should aggregate the data so that "we can quickly identify potential volunteers for clinical trials and know with confidence when it’s time to return to normal.”

In addition, Gates called for clear priorities regarding who gets tested, given the fact that test kits have been hard to come by in many states.

"First on the list should be people in essential roles such as health-care workers and first responders, followed by highly symptomatic people who are most at risk of becoming seriously ill and those who are likely to have been exposed," Gates wrote.

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Lastly, Gates called for a "data-based" approach to developing a vaccine – something that could take up to 18 months – and said the federal government needed to step in where the private sector could not.

"We can start now by building the facilities where these vaccines will be made. Because many of the top candidates are made using unique equipment, we’ll have to build facilities for each of them, knowing that some won’t get used. Private companies can’t take that kind of risk, but the federal government can."

During a 2015 TED Talk, Gates warned that the world was ill prepared for a global pandemic.