"There really is no middle ground, and it's very tough to say to people, 'Hey, keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner. We want you to keep spending because there's maybe a politician who thinks GDP growth is all that counts,'" Gates said in an interview with TED on Tuesday.
Gates, who is among the country's leading philanthropists, has been using his money and influence to curb the spread of the virus as much as possible. Although Gates did not mention Trump by name in the interview, the president has floated easing restrictions around social distancing in order to jump-start the economy in recent days.
"It's very irresponsible for somebody to suggest that we can have the best of both worlds," Gates continued.Trump has suggested that kind of middle-ground approach, arguing that some people should be allowed to return to work while other, more vulnerable populations are kept quarantined in their homes. According to reporting in The New York Times, experts say that widespread social distancing is necessary to keep the virus from spreading further.
When Gates was asked what he would do as president, the Microsoft founder suggested that reopening the economy too soon would be a mistake. He said that the virus was doing enormous harm to the economy, but that it's more possible to bring the economy back than to bring people back to life.
"So we're going to take the pain in the economic dimension — huge pain — in order to minimize the pain in the diseases-and-death dimension," Gates said.
According to Vox, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has offered up $100 million to fund testing and other scientific efforts around the pandemic. Gates continued by saying that, while he considers himself an optimist, he believes the social distancing measures that are currently in place in much of the country may need to continue for at least six more weeks.
The billionaire also acknowledged the economic impacts of the measures, but said that the U.S. had no real choice in the matter. He said that, while the side-effects are undoubtedly unfortunate, the sooner the U.S. cracks down and works to prevent the further spread of the illness, the sooner the country and the economy can return to normal.