The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is preparing to roll out at-home coronavirus testing kits to residents of the Seattle area — the community hardest hit by the virus in the U.S. so far.
More than 500 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the U.S. so far, and at least 24 people have died, the majority of them in . The Gates Foundation hopes that these new test kits will improve the detection of the disease and help mitigate the impact of the epidemic.
"Early detection plays an essential role in helping public health authorities identify and treat people with COVID-19, take steps to safely isolate them and reduce transmission within the community," said Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman.
The foundation will team up with Public Health-Seattle & King County, the Washington State Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "to help them enhance their capacity to detect and treat COVID-19 and guide public health efforts to reduce transmission," the foundation announced in a press release.
According to the Seattle Times, in order to get a kit, residents who believe they may have been infected with the coronavirus will first complete a questionnaire online. If their are consistent with COVID-19 — the illness caused by the coronavirus — they may request a kit, which would be delivered to their home within two hours. The test requires you to swab inside your nose and then send the sample back to the lab for analysis. Results should be available in one to two days, and local officials will notify those who test positive.
Scott Dowell, the leader of coronavirus response at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told the Seattle Times that they plan to "eventually be able to process thousands of tests a day."
The foundation has already pledged $100 million to improve detection, isolation and treatment of coronavirus patients and to "kick-start the development of vaccines and treatments."
"Covid-19 has started behaving a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen we've been worried about," Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder turned global philanthropist, wrote in an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month. "I hope it's not that bad, but we should assume it will be until we know otherwise."
Earlier this month the foundation donated an additional $5 million to aid the efforts in the greater Seattle region. Dowell told the Seattle Times that the distribution of testing kits could expand beyond Seattle and eventually "statewide and beyond."