The pandemic routine of Bill Gates: distanced tennis, masked walks, and 'one haircut'

  • Bill Gates stepped down from the board of Microsoft in March. 
  • Since then, he's been more focused on philanthropy through his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and making sure that the world gets equitable access to coronavirus vaccines and treatments. 
  • He told Insider he's also been making more time for playing tennis lately, and going for walks in his suburban Seattle neighborhood — while wearing a mask. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Bill Gates doesn't get out much these days. 

For the most part, he spends his days at home near Seattle with his wife Melinda and their three children, Jennifer, Rory, and Phoebe.

"I have a small set of people that I've spent any time with," since the coronavirus pandemic began, Gates told Insider.  

No dinner parties, no big crowds. 

Gates has spent the past 20 years zig-zagging the globe, becoming one of the biggest advocates for global public health as co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In March, he stepped down from the board of Microsoft to "dedicate more time to philanthropic priorities."

In addition to continuing that work from home during the pandemic, he's been spending time with his family, getting out for walks, and playing a little bit of tennis and bridge. He's had one haircut. 

'Outdoors, at a distance, you can talk to a small set of people'

"I don't have general people over," Gates said, stressing anyone who does come over has been "isolated" during the pandemic. 

"Some of these people, it's really amazing," he said. "They've been in their house for like four months. And even so, I don't go close by." 

"There have been things where you're outdoors, at a distance, you can talk to a small set of people," he said.

Members of Gates's family have sparred over their differing levels of willingness to go out during the pandemic.

"We have three kids, and they're part of the household," Gates said. "Because we do see them, we're often discussing exactly how careful they are being."

"For our most social child, it's been a tough time," Gates said, not specifying whether he was referring to his eldest daughter, 24 year-old Jennifer, or his youngest, 17 year-old Phoebe. "She still doesn't think a video call is the equivalent of hanging out, and that's understandable, but we've had to be fairly strict about exactly what the kids do."

Gates' own socializing is largely confined to online bridge games (his favorite partner is Warren Buffett) He's also been doing lots of reading and watching some TV (he and Melinda like "A Million Little Things," "This Is Us," and "Ozark," according to a recent blog post.) 

Gates has started playing tennis again

Lately, he's re-discovered one of his very favorite sports. 

"Tennis wasn't allowed for awhile," he said.

But now he's back in the game. 

"I hope that tennis is still okay. I don't think any risk's been identified," he said, stressing he's still being cautious about his games. "I mean, we don't go near each other, so even that is done in a fairly specialized way." 

(Infectious disease experts recently rated tennis as low- to medium- risk pandemic activity, as long as you keep your distance from others while you're playing.) 

Gates also gets out for an occasional neighborhood stroll, but making sure to mask up first.

"If I'm out on a walk, I have my mask," he said. "Because you want people who pass by not to feel like you're creating any risk for them. And I see, in my neighborhood, there's almost nobody that we've walked by who isn't wearing their mask."

He thinks that more peer pressure, not mask mandates, will be most effective in getting Americans to adhere to the disease-fighting measure. 

Gates has had at least one haircut, and at least one coronavirus test 

Several months ago, when the Gates Foundation offices were still open and Gates was still doing in-person meetings, he grew nervous that he might've caught the virus and took one coronavirus test. 

"I actually had the flu, which I had been vaccinated for," Gates said. "I'd been in meetings when I was coughing a little bit. So I was glad that that test came out negative."

Since then, he says he hasn't had any symptoms of illness, "and because testing capacity is still limited, I go most of the time with no testing," he said.

But he did make sure his barber had one before a recent cut. 

"I went a long time without a haircut," Gates said. "And then, once they had the ways they could use masks and everything, eventually I had — I think — one haircut. And I wore a mask, the man who cut my hair wore a mask, and he knew his [COVID-19] status."

He's still not recommending everyone else rush off for a trim just yet. 

"Some people haven't had any haircuts at all, which, they look fine with long hair," he said.

In addition to his personal activities, Gates has recently been taking time to urge US lawmakers to put more funding into the Senate's coronavirus stimulus bill for vaccines and treatments to be sent out into the world. 

"Our foundation is trying to make sure that it's not just the rich, the rich in the United States, or just the rich countries, that have access to these things," he said.

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