When the history of the COVID-19 pandemic is written, Bill Gates will be one of the heroes of the story. He has understood the risk of infectious diseases for a long time, and through his foundation he has spent billions of dollars trying to eradicate them. His work has saved millions of lives, particularly in the developing world. His approach, and the approach of the Gates Foundation, has been rigorously analytical, and has operated on Gates’ faith that science and innovation, intelligently applied, can defeat infectious diseases and reduce human suffering. That may sound like an obvious truth, but few people have had the means and the intellectual energy to pursue it the way that Gates has.
Naturally, all this has made Gates a target in Trumpland, where science and innovation are seen as tools of the devil. Conspiracy theories falsely linking Gates to the pandemic were mentioned 1.2 million times on TV and social media from February to April, according to an investigation published April 17 by The New York Times. These lies include YouTube videos (the 10 most popular have almost 5 million views) and more than 16,000 Facebook posts that promote insane schemes accusing Gates of not just of having foreknowledge of the pandemic, but of also actually engineering it and using it for profit, or to advance crackpot ideas about population surveillance.
This morning, Gates released a long memo aptly titled “Pandemic 1: The First Modern Pandemic.” In prose that’s as unpretentious as a note to your best friend, it lays out Gates’ vision of where we are in the fight against the virus (“This is like a world war, except in this case, we’re all on the same side”). There’s sharp analysis here of the risks of opening our economy too soon, as well as thoughts about what we can expect from various treatments and vaccines in the near future. At a time when clear, articulate, trustworthy voices are hard to come by, Gates’ memo stands out. You should read it. Now.