Bill Gates: As things get back to ‘semi-normal,’ it’s impossible to overstate the pain that lies in the years ahead

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That’s Bill Gates, Microsoft MSFT, -0.55% co-founder and co-chair of the Gates Foundation, sharing his latest thoughts on the coronavirus pandemic in an 11-page memo cited by the Seattle Times.

The good news, he said, is we can look forward to a “semi-normal” world over the next two months.

“People can go out, but not as often, and not to crowded places,” Gates wrote. “Picture restaurants that only seat people at every other table and airplanes where every middle seat is empty.”

He said he believes schools will reopen, but stadiums won’t.

“The basic principal should be to allow activities that have a large benefit to the economy or human welfare, but pose a small risk of infection,” Gates said.

In a separate piece penned for the Economist, the tech billionaire said that, when historians write the book on the pandemic, what we’ve lived through so far will only take up the first third.

“The bulk of the story will be what happens next,” he wrote. “Even if governments lift shelter-in-place orders and businesses reopen their doors, humans have a natural aversion to exposing themselves to disease. Airports won’t have large crowds. Sports will be played in basically empty stadiums. And the world economy will be depressed because demand will stay low.”

He said life will only return to normal when most of the population is vaccinated, and that could take awhile, though he hopes that one will be in mass production by the second half of 2021.

“If that’s the case, it will be a history-making achievement: the fastest humankind has ever gone from recognizing a new disease to immunizing against it,” Gates wrote.

The global COVID-19 tally rose to 2.65 million on Thursday, with 184,643 deaths. At least 721,531 have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has the highest case toll in the world at 842,624 as well as the highest death toll at 46,785. 

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