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Gates Foundation developing at-home coronavirus testing kits

A researcher works in a lab that is developing testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus at Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation in New Jersey. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

The Gates Foundation could soon boost testing capacity for coronavirus in the region with a developing project that would offer at-home testing kits.

Patients would swab their noses and send in the sample for analysis, hopefully able to receive their results in one to two days from local health officials, according to a report from The Seattle Times. Those infected would also fill out an online form that would ask questions about their activities, movement, and contacts to help determine who else may need to be tested and work to contain the spread. The goal of this program would be to test thousands of patients per day, though there is no set launch date yet.

“Although there’s a lot to be worked out, this has enormous potential to turn the tide of the epidemic,” Scott Dowell, leader of coronavirus response at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told The Seattle Times.

The Gates Foundation has already committed up to $100 million to help with the global response to coronavirus, and an additional $5 million last week to assist in the public health response in the greater Seattle area.

Washington state has reported the most cases and deaths from coronavirus in the United States with 136 cases as of Monday, but testing has been limited so far. The state Department of Health has indicated that tests are currently prioritized for anyone with underlying health conditions or serious illness. If you have mild symptoms, the DOH recommends staying home and away from others.

Experts like epidemiologist Dr. Eric Ding have said that increased testing is the best way to get a full picture of the illness, and be able to better contain the spread.

The University of Washington is also working to increase testing capacity with a new lab test announced last week that the university said could analyze up to 1,000 samples each day. The UW has implemented a drive-through clinic for UW Medicine employees starting this week where health care workers who are showing symptoms can be tested without leaving their car.

UW School of Medicine ready to test 1,000 samples per day for coronavirus

The university is partnering with the Gates Foundation on the home testing program.

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