Bill Gates talks COVID-19 risks in first remarks after divorce disclosure

The billionaire and former Microsoft co-founder did not discuss any personal matters

Bill Gates discussed COVID-19 in his first public remarks made after announcing his divorce from Melinda Gates. 

The billionaire and former Microsoft co-founder did not discuss any personal matters during a virtual global forum with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, but he did share his thoughts on COVID-19 vaccinations and climate change.

"The innovation, particularly on vaccines, was faster than ever. Even faster than people like Dr. Fauci and myself led people to expect," Gates said. "So, within a year of seeing the virus and seeing its sequence, several companies starting with Pfizer and Moderna had vaccines that have proven to be incredibly effective."

He added that until the country gets "those vaccine numbers up close to 80%, we’re still going to have significant pockets of disease" when asked about the state of the virus in the U.S. 

He also said the U.S. will be digging itself out of "the deficits" COVID-19 created for a "very long time."

He added later that even as the U.S. returns to some semblance of pre-pandemic life, COVID-19 has shaped much of the future of the workforce – particularly with the emergence of new virtual work and learning opportunities that could benefit those in less populated areas.

Gates said he hopes people are having discussions about the future of virtual work and whether it is necessary for employers to demand that their workers come into the office every day versus every couple of days or "one week out of four."


"I wrote 25 years ago that said digital would make ... city centers less important. Certainly, up until the pandemic, I was more than wrong," he said, adding that COVID-19 has since shifted how people think of virtual meetings. 

Gates, who famously predicted that the world was not prepared for the threat of a pandemic as early as 2015, also predicted during Wednesday's forum that climate change will be humanity's next big feat – a claim he has repeated over the last year. 

Bill Gates during U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Economic Forum (Credit: U.S. Chamber of Commerce screenshot)

"The actual cost of being ready for the next pandemic is not gigantic. If you look at the precautionary measures where we spend on our Defense budget, this won’t be more than about 1% of that," he said. The highest expenses, he predicted, will come from future efforts to combat climate change.


"The lead time to fix [climate change] is far, far longer than it is to invent a vaccine," he said. "Because here with climate, we have an installed base with how we do power generation, with how we do cement and steel, with how we power our cars and planes and trucks, and every one of those things has to change to a green approach. And when we first go and do that, the extra cost … it's dramatically more expensive."

He added, however, that innovation related to green energy products will help reduce those expenses.

The Gateses' divorce proceedings were formally underway last week, with a judge in Washington state approving a motion that more attorneys be added to the case.


The couple, who has three children, are splitting amid reports of Bill Gates’ alleged womanizing and Melinda Gates’ reported displeasure with her husband’s past association with late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

The two plan to remain involved in their philanthropic organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to reports.

FOX Business' Dom Calicchio contributed to this report.