Bill Gates says US missed chance to avoid coronavirus shutdown, businesses should stay closed

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Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said that America missed its chance to avoid mandatory shutdowns becauase it didn't act fast enough in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The U.S. is past this opportunity to control [COVID-19] without shutdown,” Gates said during a TED Connects program that was broadcast online. “We did not act fast enough to have an ability to avoid the shutdown.”

The tech mogul said everyone should have been on notice in January. COVID-19 first surfaced in December in China, although it may have existed, perhaps undetected, in November.

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Across America, the governors of states where more than 100 million people reside have ordered some form of lockdown, mandating that a wide range of businesses remain closed either through the end of March or into the first weeks of April. Essential businesses, like grocery stores and pharmacies, have generally been exempt.

President Trump said Tuesday that he'd like to get the U.S. economy restarted by Easter, which is April 12. However, investors and health experts have warned that reopening the economy too soon could backfire in terms of public health and the economy.

Gates suggested a shutdown of six to 10 weeks -- and said that the U.S. needs to dramatically ramp up its testing for COVID-19.

“It’s very tough to say to people, ’Hey keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner, we want you to keep spending because there’s some politician that thinks GDP growth is what counts,” Gates explained. “It’s hard to tell people during an epidemic … that they should go about things knowing their activity is spreading this disease.”

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Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said Tuesday that the U.S. did not move quickly enough during COVID-19's early spread.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said Tuesday that the U.S. did not move quickly enough during COVID-19's early spread. (AP)

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

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