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Gates Foundation and Amazon could provide coronavirus home test kits in Seattle

In an effort to tackle the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus in the Seattle area, Amazon Care and the Gates Foundation are reportedly in talks to join forces to distribute at-home test kits to residents in the area. 

According to a report by CNBC, Amazon Care, the tech giant’s medical wing for its employees, has reached out to offer “its logistics expertise” to the yet-to-be-launched Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation project. The Microsoft founder’s private foundation is the largest of its kind and is known for addressing health care emergencies across the globe. 

Washington state, where Microsoft and Amazon are both headquartered, has been hit harder than anywhere else in the U.S. by the coronavirus officially known as COVID-19, with 30 people dead and over 330 infected. The majority of deaths are related to Life Care Center, a Kirkland nursing home. Last week, both Amazon and Microsoft instructed employees to work from home

The Gates-funded project was first reported by the Seattle Times, which said at-home tests would “allow people who fear they may be infected to swab their noses and send the samples back for analysis.”

Once the project launches, those in Seattle who may be experiencing coronavirus symptoms can fill out a questionnaire online to see if they qualify to have a test sent to their home within two hours. Kits would then be sent to the University of Washington and results would be available within two days. If a positive result for COVID-19 is found, public health officials will be notified. Those with a positive coronavirus diagnosis would then self-quarantine and have access to online forums to discuss with health officials best practices for containment.  

Amazon headquarters empty coronavirus
John Moore/Getty Images

In a statement to Digital Trends on Monday, a spokesperson for the Gates Foundation said: “The Seattle Times article addressed the potential to adapt the Seattle Flu Study to support local public health agencies in the greater Seattle area in detecting COVID-19. Our team has and will continue to actively explore ways that we can contribute to local response through the application of the study. While we’re working quickly with our partners to determine what’s possible, details of this support have not yet been finalized. We will reach out as soon as we have more to share.”

Amazon did not immediately return Digital Trends’s request for comment. A representative told CNBC that “we’re in discussions with local public health leaders on how best we can help.”

The joint venture, however, poses a big question: Patient cost. 

The project’s launch date is still unknown, as is whether residents will have to pay for the at-home test kit. The University of Washington’s Department of Virology has since been given the green light by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test thousands of samples sent from across the U.S., yet HuffPost reporter Michael Hobbes found the UW test can cost uninsured people in Seattle upward of $1,600

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Meira Gebel
Meira Gebel is a freelance reporter based in Portland. She writes about tech, social media, and internet culture for Digital…
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