A project funded by Bill Gates and his foundation will soon begin to offer home testing kits that allow people who fear they may be infected with the coronavirus to swab their noses and send the samples back for analysis, The Seattle Times reported.
The results should be available in one to two days, and will be shared with local health officials who will notify those who test positive. Via online forms, infected people can answer questions about their movements and contacts, making it easier for health officials to locate others who may need to be tested or quarantined, as well as to track the virus' spread and identify possible hot spots, said the newspaper.
Initially, the lab will be able to conduct about 400 tests a day, eventually expanding to thousands of tests a day, said Scott Dowell, leader of coronavirus response from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"Although there's a lot to be worked out, this has enormous potential to turn the tide of the epidemic," Dowell said, adding that it is not clear exactly when the project will be launched.
Software needs to be upgraded to handle the expected crush of requests, and a detailed questionnaire finalized for people who request tests, according to Dowell.
The project will reduce the need for sick people to visit a doctor's office or clinic, lowering the chance of exposing others, said the paper.
Public Health - Seattle and King County has confirmed 71 cases and 15 deaths as of Saturday. The area is among the hardest hit in Washington State, where the country's first confirmed coronavirus case and first death in connection with the virus were reported.
The foundation announced on March 4 an additional commitment of 5 million U.S. dollars to help public health agencies in the greater Seattle region enhance their capacity to detect the virus in King County, Snohomish County and other surrounding communities.
On Feb. 5, the foundation committed up to 100 million dollars to the global effort to respond to the virus. ■