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Bill Gates’ Warning from 2017: We’re not ready for a pandemic


Bill Gates warned against a global pandemic years ago.

In a Business Insider op-ed from 2017, Bill Gates stated, “Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year. And they say there is a reasonable probability the world will experience such an outbreak in the next 10-15 years.”

Three years later, the world is battling such a pathogen: COVID-19.


The web-based COVID-19 dashboard created by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., as seen on May 13, 2020. Image credit: Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU)


Gates continued, “And even if the next pandemic isn’t on the scale of the 1918 flu, we would be wise to consider the social and economic turmoil that might ensue if something like Ebola made its way into a lot of major urban centers.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has, to date, infected over 4.2 million worldwide, and we’re just beginning to see the effects of the social and economic turmoil to which Gates referred.

Gates Foundation shifts focus to COVID-19

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with an endowment of more than $46 billion, has focused on initiatives that improve global health and wellbeing since its founding 20 years ago. Targeting diseases such as malaria, HIV, and polio, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped battle public health crises worldwide.

But the severity of COVID-19 caused the foundation to realign their considerable public health expertise to focus on this pandemic.

Gates told the Financial Times, “We’ve taken an organization that was focused on HIV and malaria and polio eradication, and almost entirely shifted it to work on this. This has the foundation’s total attention. Even our non-health related work, like higher education and K-12 [schools], is completely switched around to look at how you facilitate online learning.”


Bill Gates did a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session on COVID-19 on March 18, 2020. Image credit: Gates Notes Blog


Among other efforts, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is working to determine the number and source of cases and how the disease is transmitted.

“That’s why we are funding modeling to help predict the course of the virus, and providing technical assistance and funding to develop more effective diagnostics,” states The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation newsletter, The Optimist.

MathWorks Applauds the Foundation’s Proven Track Record

MathWorks recognizes the foundation’s unique experience with global health crises. To help fight COVID-19, MathWorks donated $1 million to The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Combating COVID-19 Fund.

“MathWorks wanted to find an organization where we could make a meaningful contribution to scientific and engineering efforts to combat COVID-19,” said Jack Little, CEO of MathWorks. “Over the last five years Bill Gates has become a foremost expert on pandemics and we’re proud to support the scientifically-driven root cause solutions his Foundation is pursuing to fight COVID-19 around the world.”

The full announcement can be read here.

“An Extraordinary Triumph of Human Will”

In the 2017 Business Insider op-ed, Bill Gates closed with the following statement, “When the next pandemic strikes, it could be another catastrophe in the annals of the human race. Or it could be something else altogether. An extraordinary triumph of human will. A moment when we prove yet again that, together, we are capable of taking on the world’s biggest challenges to create a safer, healthier, more stable world.”

Let’s all work to make sure we arrive at the later: an extraordinary triumph of human will.

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