People in Seattle who worry they’re infected by the new coronavirus may soon be able to get answers, thanks to a plan funded by the Gates Foundation to distribute at-home nose swabs, the Seattle Times reports.
Home test: People will be able to use the kits at home, sending the swabs in for analysis. Results would be available in 48 hours and reported to health officials. There will also be an online portal to provide information track contacts. The at-home approach was trialed by the Seattle Flu Study, also funded by Bill Gates, which two years ago began tracking the spread of influenza with similar swab kits, according to the Seattle paper.
So far, people who have the virus—or fear they do—have had trouble getting tested, owing to a shortage of government testing kits and narrow criteria for who is a candidate.
How soon: There’s no date yet for the program’s launch, but Scott Dowell, who heads coronavirus response at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, says the group is working to finalize software and questionnaires.
“Although there’s a lot to be worked out, this has enormous potential to turn the tide of the epidemic,” Dowell told the Seattle Times. The foundation last week committed $5 million to helping health agencies in the Seattle area.
Major outbreak: Seattle appears to have the largest outbreak of coronavirus cases in the US, with more than 70 so far. It’s likely that the true number is higher and could eventually reach into the thousands. The University of Washington last week asked students to attend classes online, and major events in the city, like Comic Con, have been canceled or postponed.
Big moment: Gates has been warning for years about a coming pandemic, sometimes referred to as “Disease X.” As his warnings seem to come true with the coronavirus, the foundation’s effort to fund vaccines and public health infrastructure will be put to the test.
This article is part of our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Our full list of articles related to Covid-19 is available here.