• We haven’t had much good news since the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak began, but there are starting to be faint glimmers of hope regarding what quickly became a global pandemic.
  • Measures like social distancing appear to be having an effect, around the US at least, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates — whose charitable foundation focuses extensively on global health care — is now predicting that we should see the number of coronavirus cases start to level off by the end of this month if we keep adhering to these mitigation practices.
  • If we do that, Gates also thinks the number of coronavirus deaths will come in below the estimates that have been publicized from the White House.
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Global health care is one of the many causes Bill Gates focuses on through his charitable foundation, so he naturally has had a lot to say about the current coronavirus pandemic — about the US response to it, the timetable for getting through it, and what the ultimate toll from it will be.

In line with a prediction he made during a Reddit AMA session a few weeks ago — that the US could turn a corner if we implemented a broad shutdown — he’s now estimating that the ultimate death toll from the novel virus in the US won’t be as bad as the numbers put out recently by the White House. President Trump just a few days ago noted that a range of deaths from the virus of between 100,000 and 240,000 people, as high as those numbers are, would be seen as a win for the US response and that all the other predicted scenarios result in much worse death counts.

By and large, however, social distancing efforts are beginning to “bend the curve” of the virus’ spread around the country, and Gates thinks that if we keep this up, “we should be able to get out of this with a death number well short of that.” That’s what he told anchor Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, adding that sticking with these behaviors should also result in cases leveling off by the end of this month.

“If we had kept on going to work, traveling like we were, you know, that curve would never bend until you had the majority of the people infected and then a massive number seeking hospital care and lots and lots of deaths,” Gates said.

As for the obvious follow-up to that point — so, what does mean in terms of when things will start going back to normal? — the first caveat is that, of course, we’ve got to get to the end of this month first to actually see the improvement. And, even then, things won’t “go back to truly normal until we have a vaccine that we’ve gotten out to basically the entire world.” A vaccine is not estimated to arrive until next year, though therapeutics to treat people who have the virus are being finalized now.

The question of how to reopen the country again is also not likely to have satisfying answers for many people, since the more or less all-at-once closure of businesses and the implementation of quarantines and stay-at-home orders won’t necessarily be reversed as soon as we’re out of the woods. Those steps are likely to be tentative, and in stages, so that we don’t rush the re-opening and get it wrong to such a degree that things have to be closed right back up again.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.