Gates-funded program will soon offer home-testing kits for new coronavirus

Testing for the novel coronavirus in the Seattle area will get a huge boost in the coming weeks as a project funded by Bill Gates and his foundation begins offering home-testing kits that will allow people who fear they may be infected to swab their noses and send the samples back for analysis.

Results, which should be available in one to two days, 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.

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 at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project is ramping up as quickly as possible, but it’s not clear exactly when it will launch, he added. Among other things, software needs to be upgraded to handle the expected crush of requests, and a detailed questionnaire finalized for people who request tests.