March 8, 2020 | 5:13pm
Home-testing kits for the coronavirus could soon be offered through a program backed by billionaire Bill Gates, according to a report.
The initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would allow people in the Seattle area to swab their noses and send back the samples for analysis, the Seattle Times reported.
Four-hundreds tests would initially be conducted at a University of Washington lab on a daily basis, with the results being returned in one or two days, the report said. Eventually, the testing capacity will be ramped up to thousands of tests each day.
It’s unclear when the program will launch. The organization is still working now to update its software to handle being inundated by requests, according to the report.
“Although there’s a lot to be worked out, this has enormous potential to turn the tide of the epidemic,” said Scott Dowell, who is leading coronavirus response at the foundation.
The testing would limit the need for potentially-infected patients to visit medical centers, where they could spread the virus to others, the organization said.
The initiative would also allow people to answer questions on an online form about their movements or contacts, making it easier for officials to track down others who may have been exposed if they test positive, the Seattle Times reported.
“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.
The foundation, which has already committed $5 million to battle the coronavirus in the Seattle area, said that the home-testing kits could eventually be available statewide.
Washington state has grappled with more than 100 cases and 16 deaths, mostly in the Seattle region.
Worldwide, there have been more than 100,000 cases and 3,500 deaths since December’s outbreak in Wuhan, China.