Bill Gates calls the federal government to task over inefficient and inequitable COVID-19 testing
By Dennis Archambault
When Bill Gates gets political, you know we have problems. Gates has warned of a potential pandemic for years. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed more than $250 million to support development of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines for COVID-19. So, he speaks from a funder’s credibility.
The public looks to leadership at the local, state, and national level during a crisis. Gates says it’s “mind-blowing” that the federal government hasn’t done a more effective job in leading on slow and inequitable testing for the coronavirus (https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/nation/coronavirus/2020/08/09/gates-bill-virus-testing-mind-blowing-problems/112904060/).
The philanthropic community, also expected to demonstrate civic leadership in this public health crisis, has done so, from the efforts of the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan up to the international Gates Foundation. These are investors in the public good. They assume that their support of public health efforts will fill gaps and pay dividends in resolving the crisis. When they don’t see results, like any investor, they have a right to challenge leadership. Citing slow response in preparing for the pandemic, the political problems that has exacerbated the crisis, and inequitable administration of testing, Gates bluntly asserts, “No other country has this testing insanity.”
Testing and contact tracing are essential public health tools. There is inadequate funding for both, and in many cases, as Gates asserts, there is inequity as to who has access to testing in general, and who has access to fast testing. The community looks to public health and its governmental leaders to provide leadership in a pandemic. Unfortunately, the inconsistent and inefficient response, at best, is frustrating those who are investing a lot of money to help.
Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health.