The claim: Bill Gates told us about the coronavirus in 2015.
A TED Talk video of Bill Gates has resurfaced in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Social media posts claim Gates predicted the COVID-19 outbreak as early as 2015.
A warning of an epidemic
When addressing the coronavirus crisis recently, Gates recommended viewers take a look at a similar conversation he had on the topic in 2015.
Gates' TED Talk is called “The next outbreak? We’re not ready.” In it, the Microsoft founder and global philanthropist talks about how the world would need to drastically prepare for biological attacks.
He noted that after the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the state of preparation was not up to par. He suggested ways the world could improve its defense strategy.
"The failure to prepare could allow the next epidemic to be dramatically more devastating than Ebola," he said.
In comparing future threats, he noted that Ebola did not spread through the air and that people were bedridden by the time they were contagious. He suggested a future threat could be an airborne virus that spreads easily, "a virus where people feel well enough while they're infectious that they get on a plane or they go to a market."
Gates noted the world is far better prepared now than it was for the 1918 flu pandemic because of technology alone. But he added the world should prepare for an outbreak akin to how it would prepare for war.
He pointed out a need for advancements in the number of medical facilities and testing procedures, more research and development, and better infrastructure in the area of underdeveloped regions of the world, where such a pathogen would likely break out.
Gates' talk focuses on a potential epidemic, not an outbreak on the scale of a pandemic.
He does not specifically call out the coronavirus but alludes to a future pathogen, likely a virus.
Did Gates predict the future?
The coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan, China.
A city of 11 million people, and a major manufacturing hub, it is not an underdeveloped part of the world. But that may be one of the few aspects of the pandemic that Gates didn't correctly predict.
Based on the current coronavirus spread and reaction to it, Gates' claim of lack of preparation looks to be true, even in the U.S.
There has been criticism of the way the Trump administration has handled the response to the pandemic.
Medical personnel are worried about the shortage of masks need to protect themselves while treating patients. The White House has acknowledged this supply gap concern and said it would be handled quickly.
Studies, including a USA TODAY analysis, have found the U.S. will not have enough hospital beds to handle a spike in cases.
Testing supplies remain tight, even as the U.S. works to increase capacity. A vaccine for COVID-19 would not be ready for 12 to 18 months, even as researchers around the globe furiously work toward developing one.
Our ruling: True
In his 2015 TED talk, Gates does not specifically call out the coronavirus but does predict the impact of a potential epidemic and lays out a path for preparing for it. Based on our research, we determine the claim that Bill Gates nominally predicted the coronavirus pandemic – and the world's ability to respond to it – to be TRUE.
Our fact-check sources:Bill Gates TED Talk Gates Notes blog