Bill Gates: Fight coronavirus with three steps

Gates foresaw the kind of devastation a pandemic could bring if world leaders didn't prepare 5 years ago

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Microsoft founder Bill Gates detailed a three-step plan in a Washington Post op-ed for the U.S. to beat the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Gates, who foresaw the kind of devastation a pandemic could bring if world leaders didn't prepare five years ago, has been using his platform to raise awareness about COVID-19 and has donated $100 million to relief efforts through his charity.

"There's no question the United States missed the opportunity to get ahead of the novel coronavirus, but the window for making important decisions hasn't closed," the billionaire wrote.

Bill and Melinda Gates in April 2017. (Getty Images)

"The choices we and our leaders make now will have an enormous impact on how soon case numbers start to go down, how long the economy remains shut down and how many Americans will have to bury a loved one because of COVID-19," he continued.

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The first point in his plan called for a "consistent nationwide approach" to lockdowns, adding that it could take 10 weeks for COVID-19 case numbers to decrease.

"Because people can travel freely across state lines, so can the virus," he wrote. "The country's leaders need to be clear: Shutdown anywhere means shutdown everywhere. 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."

"Any confusion about this point will only extend the economic pain, raise the odds that the virus will return, and cause more deaths," he continued.

Victoria Scott bicycles along a section of the Grand Concourse that has been temporarily closed to vehicular traffic March 27 in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

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Lockdowns have proven successful in countries like China and South Korea, whereas Italy and the United States have suffered more confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths as the countries struggle to keep people indoors.

President Trump on Sunday extended social-distancing regulations until April 30 after receiving statistical projections from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, who said the U.S. could experience more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections from the pandemic.

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The second point in Gates' plan called for larger-scale and more prioritized COVID-19 testing.

A patient is given a COVID-19 test by a medical worker outside Brooklyn Hospital Center March 29 in Brooklyn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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."

As of Tuesday morning, health officials have identified more than 164,000 cases in the U.S. and 3,170 people have died, though experts agree the number of cases is likely higher when counting those who have the virus but have not been tested.

Trump and the Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that the United States has tested over 1 million people, which Trump called a "milestone in our war against the coronavirus.”

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In Gates' third point, he said there should be a better "data-based approach to developing treatments and a vaccine," and pressed leaders not to stoke "rumors or panic buying."

"As we've seen this year, we have a long way to go," he wrote. "But I still believe that if we make the right decisions now, informed by science, data and the experience of medical professionals, we can save lives and get the country back to work."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.