- Bill Gates said on the first episode of his new podcast with the actress Rashida Jones that he doesn’t understand why people resist wearing masks.
- “What are these, like, nudists?” the Microsoft founder said. “I mean, you know, we ask you to wear pants, and no American says, or very few Americans say, that that’s, like, some terrible thing.”
- Gates said experts first based their recommendations on what they knew about other respiratory viruses, but COVID-19 turned out to be much different. Now the evidence that wearing masks helps to prevent the spread of the virus is “overwhelmingly clear.”
- The first episode of Jones and Gates’ new podcast series, “Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions,” also included an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The evidence is overwhelming: Masks work to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
In places where they’re mandated, rates of COVID-19 sink, and one recent model estimated that if all Americans wore them, 63,000 more US deaths could be prevented by March.
But not all Americans are on board, snubbing the face coverings as a political statement against science and for independence.
“The idea that somebody’s resisting wearing a mask, that is such a weird thing to me,” the billionaire Microsoft founder and philanthropist told the actress and comedian Rashida Jones on the first episode of their new podcast series, “Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions,” released Monday.
“What are these, like, nudists?” he said. “I mean, you know, we ask you to wear pants, and no American says, or very few Americans say, that that’s, like, some terrible thing.”
Jones agreed. “If you want to get back to normal life anytime sooner, wear a mask, or don’t wear a mask and stay at home,” she said. “But, like, to ask for both things feels like you just want things to be better and they’re not, so you kind of just have to deal with what it is.”
“The mask helps you open up more things,” Gates said.
Gates explained why masks weren’t expected to be so important early in the pandemic
In the episode, Jones asked Gates why health experts didn’t always think masks were effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
Gates said that early on, experts based their advice on what they knew about other respiratory viruses, like the common cold and the flu. Those illnesses might spread when people cough — but far less readily than COVID-19, which can jump between people who are merely talking.
“These unbelievable viral loads that you see with coronavirus don’t occur with most of the other respiratory viruses,” Gates said.
For example, if someone with a cold spent an hour, maskless, in a room with others, most people would remain healthy. But if a maskless person with COVID-19 spent an hour in a room with others, “a high percentage” would wind up sick. “That’s like measles,” he said.
“Our model of ‘flu with coughing’ turned out to be wrong,” he added.
COVID-19’s ability to spread when people are asymptomatic is unusual too, he said. So while people with a cold or the flu tend to stay home when they’re contagious because they don’t feel well, people with COVID-19 can be walking around feeling healthy and unknowingly infecting those around them.
Experts have also learned during this pandemic that homemade cloth masks, ideally with three layers, help to prevent the spread of disease. Early on, they thought only N95 or medical-grade masks worked and wanted to save the limited supply for healthcare workers.
But now, Gates said, “it’s overwhelmingly clear that the upside” of wearing a mask “is gigantic.”