Gates: Coronavirus testing at national level 'might not happen'

Microsoft founder said access to COVID-19 tests is 'chaotic'

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Coronavirus testing at the national level in the U.S. "might not happen" during a Friday interview on the "TODAY Show," Microsoft founder Bill Gates said.

Gates, who warned about the dangers of being unprepared for a pandemic in a 2015 TED Talk, has been very vocal about the country's response to COVID-19, the importance of testing and vaccines and general wellbeing practices since COVID-19 started spreading in the United States.

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“Many countries decided that at the national level they would orchestrate the testing. That hasn't happened in the United States — it might not happen. The access to tests is just, you know, chaotic," Gates said on the TODAY Show when asked how he would assess the country's testing efforts.

Bill Gates, Co-Founder and Technology Advisor of Microsoft, Co-Chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)

So far, COVID-19 testing in the U.S. has been conducted on a state level. State governors and congresspeople have criticized President Trump for not distributing tests at a national level.

The president on Thursday said he thinks the country is doing "a great job" when asked about the U.S. testing capacity.

However, that he believes the country does not yet have the testing capacity to reopen the economy, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, said earlier in the week.

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Increased testing would address a concern that many individuals with coronavirus are believed to be asymptomatic, which means they may be spreading the virus to vulnerable groups without knowing they are infected. Congress delivered a nearly $500 billion infusion of coronavirus spending Thursday, which includes about $25 billion for enhanced COVID-19 testing.

Earlier this month, Gates detailed a three-step plan for the U.S. to beat COVID-19 in a Washington Post op-ed that included prioritizing large-scale testing. Gates also said testing results should be aggregated so the U.S. "can quickly identify potential volunteers for clinical trials and know with confidence when it’s time to return to normal."

In this March 2020 photo provided by Gilead Sciences, a vial of the investigational drug remdesivir is visually inspected at a Gilead manufacturing site in the United States. (Gilead Sciences via AP)

In terms of a coronavirus vaccine being developed, however, the billionaire was more optimistic. H told the TODAY Show that "the best scientists" are working on creating a vaccine, and it may not take as long as usual to create one for COVID-19.

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“Usually a vaccine takes over five years," Gates said.

But he is "hopeful" and has "seen signs that we may get to the optimistic side of that time projection," Gates said.

The billionaire's philanthropy organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, donated $150 billion last week toward global relief efforts. The organization has made $250 billion in donations to fighting the new coronavirus.

Relief efforts include" funding modeling to help predict the course of the virus, and providing technical assistance and funding to develop more effective diagnostics" like easy-to-use COVID-19 test kits, the website reads.

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