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Bill Gates can’t understand people who don't wear masks: ‘What are these, like nudists?’
via Sam Churchill / Flickr

Like many of us, Bill Gates can't understand why some people are opposed to wearing masks. The Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist has been involved in public health for decades and a vocal advocate for masks throughout the pandemic.

The numbers don't lie. Mask mandates have helped lower COVID-19 infection rates and studies show that if every American masked up, we could save 63,000 lives by March.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of Americans who are opposed to wearing masks because they believe they infringe on their individual liberties.

In doing so, they also put countless lives at risk because they continue to help spread the infection.


Gates shared his frustration with anti-maskers on his new podcast with actor Rashida Jones: "Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions."

"The idea that somebody's resisting wearing a mask, that is such a weird thing to me," the billionaire told Jones on the first episode of their podcast.

"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."

"If you want to get back to normal life anytime sooner, wear a mask, or don't wear a mask and stay at home," Jones 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. The philanthropist believes many underestimate the risks of COVID-19, because they think it spreads like a cold or flu.

"These unbelievable viral loads that you see with coronavirus don't occur with most of the other respiratory viruses," Gates said.

If someone with a cold spent an hour in a room full of people, most would remain healthy. However, with COVID-19. a "high percentage" of people would catch the virus. "That's like measles," he said.

On the podcast, he also addressed the mixed messages health officials sent about masks in the beginning of the pandemic. "Our model of 'flu with coughing' turned out to be wrong," he added.

But now, Gates said, "it's overwhelmingly clear that the upside" of wearing a mask "is gigantic."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also appeared on the show. He offered some words of encouragement to those having a hard time coping with pandemic stress.

"One of the things we're dealing with is a degree of essentially fatigue that people have about going through this," Fauci said. "It's amazing. It's almost like a distortion of time, Rashida."

"I want to tell people, 'Don't give up," Fauci added. "This is going to end. Science is going to help us with a vaccine and therapy, and if we pay attention to the public-health measures, we can gain control of it.'"

The vaccine is on the way and the therapeutics for treating COVID-19 are helping more people survive the virus. But it's hard not to imagine an America where it wasn't allowed to thrive because far too many people mistook inconvenience for tyranny.

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