Gates Foundation to soon offer home-testing kits for coronavirus in Seattle area

SEATTLE -- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced it will begin offering home-testing kits for people in the Seattle area for the new coronavirus in the coming weeks.

The Seattle Times reports in a story on Sunday that it's not clear when the project will launch, but it's ramping up as quickly as possible. Seattle has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, with 14 deaths linked to a Seattle-area nursing home.

People who think they've been infected can fill out a questionnaire online and request a test kit if their symptoms are consistent with the illness the virus causes. The kits will be delivered within two hours and include nose swabs.

The samples will be sent to a lab at the University of Washington for testing, and results should be available in a few days. The home-testing kits mean people won't have to go to a doctor's office and possibly infect other people.

The online forms will also allow infected people to answer questions about their movements and contacts so that health officials can find others who might need to be tested and determine hot spots.

Scott Dowell, leader of coronavirus response at the foundation, said the lab will be able to conduct about 400 tests a day, but will eventually expand to thousands a day.

The foundation is known for fighting diseases around the globe, and has developed expertise in the field.

“One of the most important things from our perspective, having watched and worked on this in other parts of the world, is the identification of people who are positive for the virus, so they can be safely isolated and cared for, and the identification of their contacts, who can then be quarantined,” Dowell said.