Op-Ed: Bill Gates Had It Right

Bill Gates. Photo credit: Sebastian Derungs, World Economic Forum.

Bill Gates, at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, on Feb. 28, 2017, stated the following:  

Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year. And they say there is a reasonable probability the world will experience such an outbreak in the next 10 to 15 years.

For years now, Bill Gates has been a voice in the wilderness, warning us that our nation has been woefully unprepared to deal with a pandemic. 

Ours is a country that brags about the bombs we build and the jets we own.  But you cant carpet bomb a virus. You could have carpeted research clinics and hospitals though. You could have kept a pandemic task force in place, ready to act as necessary.

Grandmothers carrying their grandson across the Rio Grande were never putting our nation at risk. They did not cause Walmarts all over America to close. They got jobs there instead. 

A Space Force? We really don’t need to arm soldiers with ray guns to fight Vulcans from outer space. That was a TV show. Ebola, Swine Flu, Corona — this is real life. Now it is bringing to us an untimely death. 

Our older LGBT community knows what it is like to see a community decimated.  Today, we have yet a new epidemic to fight, new losses to bear. 

In those early days of HIV, our community was gripped by fear. A diagnosis one day meant certain death in a not too distant tomorrow. For those of us that are in our 70s and lived through the 80s, that’s how we feel today. 

We appreciate the recommendations of self-quarantine, social distancing and washing our hands. But lets be real. This virus is not so gentle. The survivability rate for older Americans like myself, with respiratory and heart conditions, is frighteningly low.

The prophylactic measures being initiated by health officials are essential to slow down the spiral of infection — to flatten the curve, as they are saying. Unfortunately, this is a global pandemic. Our efforts will mitigate a disaster, not prevent it. Our cautionary actions will be limiting the spread, not eliminating it. 

On a personal level, as a high-risk candidate, I will take every precaution, and encourage you to do so as well. At SFGN, we have closed the office for at least two weeks. This print edition is a tribute to a staff working in the new virtual reality.
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The sad and hard truth is that America is woefully unprepared to deal with this exponentially spreading virus. That is the fault of all of us. We were busy building bigger malls, buying nicer cars, and sailing on beautiful cruise ships. 

We let politicians and our leaders get away with murder. Now, that inaction is killing us. Dont take that too hard. Our community is still special and unique; better than most. We still walk, march and bike to arrest the pandemic of AIDS. We say a prayer for those lost and fight like hell for the living. But the lessons of history were there for us to see.

After AIDS, there was SARS, the Swine Flu, and the Ebola crisis. Nature has been warning us for years. The smoke signals were there, even with Polio 50 years ago. Like climate change today, we had wake up calls yesterday. We should have done better. 

Life went on after Polio, and a vaccine was found, but too many people went forward without looking back. We were all taught in grade school the axiom that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And so, we do now.

The concerns of residents of Wilton Manors, greater Fort Lauderdale, and our community will be much more intense with each passing day. The challenges are going to be awesome, but you are blessed with a wealth of community leaders guiding devoted non-profits already coming together to forge a coalition of care and concern. Reach out to them. They are there for you.

My message to everyone is dont get beaten down so far you cant get up. If you want to find a path in the road ahead, help build the road. Despite how we brag about ourselves as Americans, there are many paths and roads ever so obviously still unpaved. There is no finish line, just another race to run.
If you want to seek a newer world and a better future, just go back to the past and look at the dreams still unfilled, and the visions not yet accomplished. 

From climate change to health care, from social justice to equal rights there are still goals out there for you to set your north star on. Do so boldly.  The world you save may be your own.

Publishing this paper for a decade and illuminating your lives has been a blessing. With your help, support and faith, we will do our best to carry on in the face of what we all face. Lets try to get through this together.

 

 


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