Bill Gates: US fumbled coronavirus response because ‘we believe in freedom’

Microsoft founder Bill Gates on Tuesday said the United States fumbled its coronavirus response in part because “we believe in freedom.”

The billionaire’s comments were in regard to questions about some Americans’ seemingly politicized aversion to wearing masks and the country’s slow initial response to COVID-19 in an interview with The Economist.

“We believe in freedom, individual freedom. We optimize for individual rights,” Gates said.

People cross the street in Huntington Beach, Calif., on July 19, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

He added that a Biden presidency would not necessarily convince anti-maskers to start wearing masks because they would oppose a mandate from a different president.

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“I don’t think a change in administrations will get people to wear masks. … It’s hard to see how we build that trust network and improved behavior. It’ll mostly be incremental,” Gates explained.

He also said the country was unprepared from the outset of the virus. Testing efforts were slow to gain momentum once the virus appeared within U.S. borders, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s test contributed to that initial failure.

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The U.S. did excel in one thing, however: funding for research and development (R&D), which is where other countries could use some improvement.

“Thank goodness…with all its imperfections, [the U.S.] was there to move things ahead,” he said of American R&D, adding that other countries should be questioned over why they “weren’t able to orchestrate early high-risk money.”

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The Trump administration’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Operation Warp Speed (OWS) allocated significant funding for COVID-19 vaccine and treatment research and purchases.

The administration approved $6.5 billion for “countermeasure development” through Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and $3 billion for research through the National Institutes of Health, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

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