Microsoft co-founder and global health philanthropist Bill Gates criticized the current state of the United States' response to the Covid-19 pandemic on Sunday, including slow turnaround times for tests.
Gates told Fox News Sunday that more than six months after the pandemic, access to rapid tests was still inadequate and that the US was prepared for a severe drop in virus cases.
"Even today, people don't get their results within 24 hours. It's outrageous that we still have that," said Gates.
The United States has suffered more than 6.7 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, which resulted in nearly 200,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. This means that the country has a much higher per capita infection and death rate than many other industrialized countries, including South Korea, Australia, Germany and Canada.
The early stages of the pandemic were marked by a severe lack of testing, although the number of daily tests has improved significantly over time. Gates said politicians and health leaders need to publicly admit that the current testing situation is inadequate and find ways to make the system more efficient. "We can't pretend we're getting a good grade today."
"I think we have to put up with the fact that we didn't do a good job. Part of the reluctance I think to fix the test system now is that no one wants to admit that it is still outrageous … The US has more of these machines, more of this capacity, than other countries on a large scale, and so the reimbursement system creates a perverse incentive, "said Gates.
Regarding CNN's State of the Union, Adm. Brett Giroir, of the Department of Health and Human Services, that part of the reasons why the tests hadn't hit 1 million a day, as he had predicted, was because the rate of new cases had slowed. Reduce the number of contact tracing tests required. He also said the administration will soon be handing out $ 150 million worth of 15-minute tests.
Cases and hospitalizations have increased in several European countries in the past few weeks, which some experts have linked to "pandemic fatigue" as adherence to social distancing measures wanes. Daily cases in Spain and France have outperformed the United States by population adjustment.
In the United States, the first outbreaks occurred on the west coast and northeastern states in the spring. In recent months, the outbreaks have spread across the country. Gates attributed this in part to travel restrictions imposed by the Trump administration, which created a "rush" for American citizens and residents to return home at a time when the US did not have proper testing or quarantine protocols.
"That meant we not only had a bad spring – we had a pretty tough summer. And unfortunately, due to the seasonality, until we get these new tools, autumn seems to be pretty tough too," he said.
In a statement to CNBC, a White House spokesman said President Trump has always put the well-being of the American people first, highlighting the government's efforts to develop a vaccine.
Gates had warned of the dangers of a global health emergency like a pandemic for years, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent billions on health and poverty reduction initiatives worldwide.