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Bill Gates says foundation putting 'total attention' on COVID-19

The billionaire philanthropist is zeroing in on the pandemic.

Bill Gates and his foundation are focusing entirely on COVID-19.

James Martin/CNET
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Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has been at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic, calling for a nationwide shutdown to curb the spread of the virus and providing millions for the global response to the outbreak. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for years has worked to stop the spread of malaria, HIV and tuberculosis, but it's now setting its sights on COVID-19.

Gates said the "foundation's total attention" is on the coronavirus pandemic, according to an interview in the Financial Times Sunday. He also says the organization's non-health-related work, such as higher education and K-12, has been switched to look at how to facilitate online learning. 

The foundation released a statement Monday saying it's still committed to its core areas, including reducing infectious disease, eliminating extreme poverty and improving US public education. 

"While we've announced more than $250 million in funding to date and a commitment to leverage our Strategic Investment Fund toward the pandemic, we are increasingly focusing the expertise of our staff and leveraging our partnerships toward the urgent efforts needed to end this pandemic," the foundation said. "These are unprecedented times, but our belief that all lives have equal value and our commitment to addressing inequities across all of our work remains more critical than ever."

On April 15, Gates criticized President Trump's decision to halt funding for the World Health Organization, saying the organization is needed "now more than ever." The Microsoft co-founder has also been a target of coronavirus conspiracy theories, which make wild claims such as Gates being responsible for the creation of COVID-19 to cull the global population or that he would profit off a vaccine.

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